Not The Craziest Person on the Subway

Posted by mwallach on July 19, 2011 in New To You, New Yorkers |

Dear That’s Life,
New Yorkers are used to the strange and unusual. Whether on the subway or on the street, there is something always going on, all of which infrequently registers with onlookers as out of the ordinary. That is part of what we’re is all about.

Having recently completed a 5 mile charity run in Coney Island, it struck no one as out of the ordinary when Captain America, and “Mrs.” Captain America, arrived for the race as well. Complete in costume, shields in hand, they elicited smiles along the way from anyone who saw the spandex red, white and blue outfits running by. I would say it was a sight to see, but again, I am a New Yorker. We are tough to impress and even harder to surprise. While the entire episode was cute at the time, I did not even remember it until recently.

The memory was triggered last Thursday as I rode two subways, walked through Penn Station and then boarded an LIRR train home holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand, a floral arrangement in the other, while listening to my ipod, my work bag strapped across my chest. No matter how funny I may have looked, I rationalized that there was no way I was the craziest person to have been on the subway that day. In fact, I imagined that most people would not even take notice of me. For the most part, I was right.

That day was the first time I hosted the radio show by myself. Relying heavily on Mayer, my own experience pretty limited, my nerves were shot as I headed for the studio knowing I was going this road alone. A big deal, this was an opportunity few ever get. Appreciating that, I did not want to mess up not for my own sake, but rather so as not to embarrass anyone else involved. This was certainly my first rodeo and I wanted to come out alive.

To my complete surprise, there were two floral arrangements on my studio chair. “Am I sick?” I asked sarcastically, when I first saw the roses. Knowing I felt completely fine, I read the cards. The mystery was easily solved as supportive and loving friends all of whom are more like family had sent me flowers, wishing me good luck. I was truly touched, quickly sending them thank you messages before the show. The hour on the air went faster than expected and I emerged unscathed. After taking a very deep breath, I slumped down in my chair, trying to catch my breath.

While I had been offered a ride back to Long Island so as to avoid navigating mass transit with my flowers, I turned it down. Needing some alone time, knowing I would want to listen to my music and would not want to talk, I did not want to be rude. I thanked the person for the offer, and she understood. In order to decompress, I required time by myself.

A few people smiled as my lilies and I stepped off of the platform and on to the train. No one commented, nor offered to help me carry something, although one woman did readjust my bag’s shoulder strap even without being asked. My hands were clearly full and she stepped in to help. Otherwise, people generally left me alone and it continued that way until I got to Penn Station.

When a train and its track are called, hundreds of travellers waiting for that line converge on a single door. A sea of people make a mad dash in an effort to get home and get a seat, not necessarily in that order. Regardless, I walked carefully but firmly, both hands filled with flowers. Determined to arrive home safely with both arrangements, without my falling or dropping anything, some dexterity was needed. Finally, someone in New York noticed the woman wearing a hat in the summer who held two floral arrangement while walking semi-cautiously through the crowd. The on-looker was not about to offer help, as that would have been out of character. Rather, she was there to make a comment, completely within her rights as a New Yorker.

Looking at the flowers, she turned to me and said, “Happy birthday!” assuming that’s why I had received them. “Thank you,” I said, but explained she was wrong – my special day is not for another couple of months. I thanked her, however, for her advanced good wishes. “Happy anniversary!” she exclaimed, although again she was mistaken. I smiled and shook my head. “Well, you don’t look sick,” she replied, going through an arsenal of what she thought were reasons to send flowers. “That’s because I’m not,” I replied with a smile. Finally, she thought for a second and then patted me on the shoulder. “Well, then, good job!” she said, and all I could do was laugh. “Thank you,” I replied. “Thank you very much.”

I giggled all the way to the train, but I never saw her again. While I received a lot of good feedback about my first outing, feeling good about it myself, it was nice to know that someone else thought so, too. Even a random New Yorker, the harshest of critics, had something good to say – accidentally. Either way, I’ll take it.


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