I took the 7 train. Not my usual run, but this morning I found myself during rush hour, 8:42, mixing with the straphangers on the above-ground line.
I was on my way to the South Bronx for work. Here’s what I noticed compared to the Lexington line from the week before.
§ It was packed with about 50 people in the car.
§ I counted 12 seated passengers who were asleep, or at least with their eyes closed and seemingly asleep.
§ There were easily 15 people reading papers. Three read the Daily News and the other 12 read Chinese or Korean papers, their characters alien script to me. A man read a paperback book – I couldn’t see the title.
§ There were three people on cell phones–the beauty of the elevated train is you can still stay in touch electronically [Editor’s Note: Beauty?]. Two people were holding phones and seemed to be; by the way they stared, reading messages.
§ There were four visible pairs of white ear buds for iPods and two old-style CD players.
§ Winter parkas abounded. Women wore thick coats with the hoods lined around the edge with faux fur. Men wore sport coats without ties. A couple of guys wore hoodies. I saw two briefcases and lots of backpacks. At least half of the people in the car wore sneakers.
§ One woman had a coffee with her. She didn’t drink it. She just held it and seemed to stare past it. It wasn’t from Espresso 77 – I could tell because the brown heat-shield wasn’t stamped with its red logo.
§ The advertisement that covered the wall above me was for “the mother of all vodkas from the motherland of vodkas – Stolichnaya.” There was no mention of pie or pi.
§ I dropped a bookmark and a man across from me said, “Hey–you dropped something.” It took me a moment to realize he was talking to me and that I had dropped something. I said thanks, impressed with the kindness.
To cross the East River we went underground and the world closed in around us. My ears popped.
At Grand Central the car emptied almost completely. I transferred to the 5 going to the Bronx. The train was packed up until 86th Street, then cleared out. By the time I got to 149th Street/3rd Avenue stop I was one of half a dozen left.
Up on the surface, the South Bronx spread out before me and I moved from one world to the next.