I have either lived or worked in New York City since I was 17 years old. I remember the first time I took the subway…I was scared to death. I had a can of pepper spray in my pocket and I held onto it, with my finger on the trigger the whole time. I had been warned that the subway was not a friendly place and that if I made eye contact with anyone, I was as good as mugged.
Since that first trip, I’ve been on the subway thousands of times. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass…like when it’s hot and crowded and the train gets held up forever between stations. Sometimes it’s gross…like when it’s summer and it’s crowded and you are wearing a sundress and the guy next to you decides to rub himself on you. Sometimes it’s entertaining…like when people get into fights that are far enough away that they don’t pose any danger to you but are close enough that you can watch all the action. Mostly, they are just normal…get on, read a book and get off again.
My favorite subway memory was during my freshman year of college. I had to run up to Bloomingdale’s for my mom on December 23rd, right after my last final. I so didn’t want to go and I was in a mood bordering on surly. I got into an empty car and was glad for the quiet. A few minutes later a homeless woman came into the car and started singing me jingle bells. She was super adorable and she brightened my mood so much that I broke my rule about giving money to the homeless on the train and I gave her $5.
I also have some pretty significant memories of sitting on the subway on September 11th and everyone was telling the stories about where they were and what they were doing when the planes hit. Some people were talking about how they had been in or near the WTC. But that’s a more depressing story for another day.
Something happened while I was sitting on the subway on my way home last night that I found pretty amazing. A man came flying into the car with his daughter, just as the door was closing. He was dropping things all over the place…including his wallet. I looked up and saw that his hand was bleeding profusely…the reason he was dropping everything was because he was trying to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. His daughter was totally freaked out and practically in tears at the amount of blood.
I immediately started searching my purse for a tissue…you know, because I like to be all helpful and stuff. However, the woman next to me beat me to it and handed him a paper towel. She was clearly much more prepared than me. I actually noticed several people looking for tissues and attempting to help the man pick up his stuff. He was cleaning up his finger and another woman…who was dressed in scrubs, so possibly a medical professional…came over to inspect the wound, which ended up being a bad scrape on the knuckle. She immediately pulled out anti-bacterial spray and finished cleaning up his finger. Yet another woman walked over and produced a band-aid.
Within two minutes the guy’s wound was cleaned and dressed and his daughter was calmed down. And no one stole his wallet. Everyone saw someone in need and instead of ignoring him, they all helped him. The whole thing seriously restored my faith in humanity…and in New Yorkers.