The five people you meet in transit

15 Oct

Underground, everyone is a mystery.

You will never speak to these people, know where they came from or where they’re going. I don’t know if I’ve sufficiently hammered home how much I love the New York City subway, but I do. The culture beneath our streets is so curious, awkward, antisocial and equalizing. Everyone there is an observer to one degree or another, and we’re all pretending not to be.

I invested in a pair of dark sunglasses so I can look at the people without being met with furrowed brows or what I like to call “attitude lips.” I want to look at what everyone’s wearing, reading, playing on their iPod. Somehow, I care. These people have entire lives, and you’re sitting across from them for one part of their day, and what happens after that is impossible to know.

The subway takes all kinds, but here are the five types I repeatedly encounter:

Teenager cooly ignoring some kind of social norm. He’s playing his music loud. Knows it. Wants to bug you. She’s screeching about some guy with a group of friends, and everyone’s pretending not to listen in. He’s a pole-hugger, and he don’t care.

Girl with way cuter clothes than you. How come in social situations, you’re allowed to say, “Where’d you find that great jacket?” but on the subway, the girl just gets up and leaves and all you have to show for the encounter is hating whatever you have on that day?

Guilt-inducing busker man. Option 1: Turn up headphones to drown him out. Option 2: Leave headphones on at reasonable volume, and pretend you still can’t hear him. Do not, for any reason, look up. Do you ever notice how nobody tells these people off, even though what they’re doing is illegal? Pretty amazing, seeing that this is New York City.

The hipster. Trying too hard trying too hard trying too hard trying too hard trying too hard. That’s the only thing going through my head when I see these people. Sorry.

Someone who’s lost. You know when you’re sitting, then a standing person leans into your personal space bubble for like, three full minutes, as if attempting to memorize the subway map over your head? I’ve started asking these people, “Are you lost?” or “Where do you need to go?” I can tell they want to ask, so it is usually a relief for them to know what stops this train will make. Try it sometime. It will make them leave your bubble if nothing else.

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