As a New Yorker, I’ve been genetically coded to avoid eye contact on the subway (save for the person you see on the train whom peaks your interest, only later to find out their voice sounds like Fran Drescher meets Gilbert Gottfried) in generally every situation.
Someone bumped against me too hard? Roll my eyes while looking down.
Someone is panhandling or performing subway acrobatics? Time to bump the volume of my music and pretend I’m reading something extremely important.
But today, I had one of those rare New York moments when I looked up, made eye contact with a stranger, and had a genuinely interesting conversation, enough so that I decided to write about it. “YEAH RIGHT!” you trumpet, quickly clicking away from this page.
No, seriously guys, it happened.
I was riding the train into work this morning, (which of course makes it even less believable that someone wanted to speak before 9am) and I had my usual Mets hat on. I live in Astoria, Queens where Mets fans are born so this upcoming part of the story won’t come as much of a surprise. I looked up and saw a guy, roughly my age (28), with a Mets hat on as well, and he gestured for me to take out my earbuds. I’ve been asked questions before with my earbuds in, and removed them to help out a tourist, but never asked by a local to stop listening to what I’m listening to in order to pay attention to his thoughts.
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“Saw your hat, painful loss last night right?” he replies.
To establish that this conversation he was about to have with a stranger (who had only one thing in common with him visually) would start with the pain of Mets loss isn’t odd though. For as Mets fans, we know this pain all too well. But then, our conversation continued. It wasn’t simply an exchange of pleasantries, but a conversation we had for fifteen minutes about their whole season – how well they’ve played, key players and games, our upcoming match on Thursday (LET’S GO METS!) and what it was like to grow up a fan of a team that in all fairness, will give me liver failure.
As those around us tuned out the conversation with their earbuds and pretended focus on their copies of AM New York, we parted ways. Shit, I even shook his hand and gave a “Let’s go Mets” farewell. And while this may not happen again to me for some time, for a fleeting period of time, two strangers on a silent subway ride saw past the cold-hearted nature of this city and warmed up to share and believe in the faith that a team could willingly place subway riders in an exchange of hope.
City of Angels, here we come.