Straphanger Joe’s Neighbors Might Not Want to Read This

Loner or Talker? 

Are you a loner on the subway or a talker? Do you look at your time on the subway as time to be in your cone-of-silence or are you open to socialization?

 

I can say I’m pretty much a cone kind of guy. Travel time is my reading time, or my time to write, or sequence a yoga class, or write fencing choreography. It’s 40 minutes of free time for me. Usually I’m put out if someone I know is on my car and comes over to talk. My stomach twists a little and I hope they’ll say, “Hello,” exchange a few pleasantries, then take out their paper, turn their back to me, and start reading, pretending I’m not there for the rest of the trip.

 

Actually what happens is, if I see someone I know, like from the building I live in, I make it a point to get on a different car. I also make sure they don’t see me, or at least that I don’t make eye contact with them so they have the opportunity to avoid me, should they so desire. All this for some alone time amidst a crowd of humanity. It’s a journey inward, not a journey outward.

 

Today I took my son to his day-camp with my wife and she gave me a ride to the subway afterwards, along with a friend who is the mom of one of my son’s friends. We both take the express train at Roosevelt. When we got out of the car and I kissed my wife goodbye, I turned to this woman and said, “Do you take the E or the F?” thinking if she takes the E I’m all set.

 

“I can take either one,” she said.

 

I took step two, “Do you mind company or do you prefer your subway time to be alone time?”

 

Part of me was hoping she would be brazen enough to say, “Yes, subway time is reading time and you would be intruding on my cone-of-silence so bug off.” But instead she hesitated and said, “I can do either. What do you prefer?”

 

Oh, she was good. It was the old throw it back in my court game.

 

Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings – I’m a coward – I took my fallback position and said, “I usually read but … I wouldn’t mind the company.”

 

So I had, for the first time in over eight months, a subway riding companion.

 

And the truth is it wasn’t bad. We talked about our kids and spouses and the time passed quickly. As I got off at 23rd Street, I thought, “Maybe I should try this … talking to others, more often?”

 

Then I came back to earth. What am I, crazy? Be more social? I’d never get any reading done.

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