i took my first subway ride the last monday when i went to meet up with lily. she gave me instructions on how to get to where i was supposed to go, so armed with a piece of paper with instructions on it, i ventured out into the big bad world.
the first thing i noticed was that most people had earphones plugged into their ears, which was not surprising considering that i had the same things attached to my head like aberrant tentacles. when i sat down i proceeded to people-watch, a "hobby" i got into to alleviate boredom while waiting.
people hardly look at you when you get on the subway. nor do they look at you during the trip. they get immersed in their own world, wearing their weary i've-been-sitting-here-forever-i-can't-wait-to-get-home look. being a tourist i am pretty sure i didn't wear that look, or at least i hope not. i avoided eye contact. i didn't think they would appreciate a stare from me.
a few minutes later an old man with a trolley and a saxophone came on. i felt a tug around the area of my heart as i noticed the careful way he held his sax, and how his fly was open even though his shirt looked carefully tucked in. he leaned onto a hand rail, switched the gadget in the trolley on and proceeded to play.
the trolley had a player which started blaring out an accompaniment to the man's "the lady is a tramp" rendition. he was surprisingly good and i found myself switching my ipod off to listen. the lady seated in front of me looked at me, made eye contact, and smiled. we were the only people who gave change to the guy. i wanted to clap, but realized it was probably not welcome. the old guy made a tiny bow of thanks when we gave change, and hopped off at the next stop.
several people came on, asking for money/food for some reason or the other. i did my best to not listen as guilt flooded my being. i know that they were probably just scams but a nagging voice at the back of my head kept saying "what if it's true?"
i kept my built at bay and my wallet hidden. and then a tall black man came in. he had no thumbs and said he had had them blown off by a bomb when he was in the service. he now coached some team or another, and was not doing drugs or booze. he asked for change and the lady at the corner who had ignored all the people getting on or off gave him some change. the guy graciously said thank you and said that if the rest didn't have change, he would take a smile.
i could do that! so i smiled at him and he smiled right back, telling me i had a nice smile. the people seated in front of me stayed stoic and he called them the no-smiling section. that made me smile again and on his way out he looked over at me and told me to have a nice day.
i got off the train smiling and feeling a bit less guilty.
it's amazing how people react to things. i guess i enjoyed the people watching and i think i learned a bit more about people in general. who would have guessed? all in the span of one metro ride.