The New York City subway has a much different feel on the weekends than during standard commuting hours. Belligerent, jaded locals cede the trains to tourists, which is fun on several levels: A. Tourists are generally nicer. B. They try so hard to “blend in.” (Note to tourists: Wearing your backpack on your front is a dead giveaway.) C. They congregate in groups around subway maps trying to figure out how to go cross town. (Short answer: walk.)
It was on a 2 train through Midtown Manhattan one recent Saturday afternoon that we broke through the fourth wall. Most of the passengers were tourists, with a few locals like me sprinkled in for good measure. They were busy staring at me reading a book. I could almost hear one woman whisper. “Look, Harold, there’s one now. It’s rarely seen on the weekends. I think they call it Homo Brooklynius. Put your fanny pack away. You might scare it.”
A man took the open seat next to me. He was a bit disheveled. There was a hole in his orange shirt and his basketball shorts were two sizes too big. He was rocking formerly white tube socks with sandals. In short, he was a few ticks beyond “eccentric,” but he seemed content, smiling at nothing in particular.
At the next stop a guitar player boarded the train. There is a direct relationship between the number of tourists on the subway and the number of buskers trying to
get money entertain them. As soon as the doors closed, he turned up his amplifier to butcher sing a classic Temptations song. He smartly zeroed in on a young woman a few yards away.
“I got sunshine for the girl in the green shirt. When it’s cold outside, I got the girl in the green shirt.”
She looked around to make sure he was talking about her in the same way I would look around if someone pointed in my direction and said, “You’ve just won a million dollars.” Then, in a spirit of if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em, she started clapping. Our busker kept singing to her. The eccentric guy next to me swayed in time to the music.
So she began dancing. Of course she did.
“What can make me feel this way? Everybody! The girl in the green shirt!”
“Today is my birthday!” she shouted. Of course it was.
Everyone starting clapping while the busker pulled the Beatles card. “Today is your birthday.”
“it is! It’s my birthday!”
The eccentric guy reached into the pocket of his oversized basketball shorts and pulled out a can of Budweiser. He held it high as if to toast the girl in the green shirt and the busker. Then he popped the top with a satisfying whhushhh and took a long swig.
Another woman across the train caught my eye, her mouth hanging open just a bit, and shook her head slowly. She knew it and I knew it. This would never happen during commuting hours.
Have a great weekend, everyone!