Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Just a Typical Manhattan Marathon Day

Despite it being the New York City Marathon, for me it was a typical day in Manhattan.  Construction everywhere, street closures due to the race, foreigners from all over (this time here for the run) the city was a bustle of energy.

Every bus ride I took  from the beginning of the day to now  someone struck up a conversation with me.  First on the Third Avenue bus headed uptown, a woman commented on how much she liked the detail on my pants...which led to her telling me she really liked my sweater coat...and then asked if my scarf went with the coat (it didn't, it went with my tunic top) and this complete stranger basically was just complimenting me from head to ankle.   Nice start to the day.

My mother-in-law (MIL) and I transferred to the Clinton-Yorkville bus headed from 57th Street to York Avenue and then to 86th St circumventing the marathon which was taking over First Avenue due to runners. On that ride I was showing my MIL photos of the great house numbers I'd taken when the guy in the seat behind us chimed in over her shoulder and said, "If you like doorways and entrances and it sounds as if you do and I do too I want to show you this photo of a doorway on the west side with the carved head of Medusa,” and while he swiped through his phone photos trying to locate the image he stopped along the way to show me other images he thought I’d like and I in turn then began finding and sharing photos of doorways and floors I’d taken in Berlin and Rome and here in Manhattan.  He had some incredible stormy sky images of the skyline and the Triboro Bridge just before Hurricane Sandy hit and they were forced to evacuate their apartment.  As I started to get off at my stop, the man reached out his hand, “You have a good eye and good composition  my name is Larry.”

Later that day as I made the reverse trip I sat next to a woman who clearly had a German accent.  As we started chatting, she told me was from Stuttgart but had lived in New York for forty years.  The more she revealed the more we had in common: I used to work a block from where she lived in what is known as Yorkville  an area full of Germans, Hungarians, Poles and Czechs.  We commiserated about the closing of all the great German restaurants  The Ideal Cafe which my husband loved, the Bremen House, Cafe Heidelberg, and sadly Elk Candy with its windowful of brightly colored marzipans and chocolates.  I told her of our travels to Berlin and all things German.  

The bus was packed.  People were being jostled close together.  Standing in front of where we were sitting was an over-sized man with one hand hanging on to the overhead pole and carrying what seemed to be a heavy overstuffed laptop bag in the other. I looked up and asked, “If you want to put that bag down, I can put it between my feet.”

He looked surprised but immediately plunked it down and I moved my feet to prop it in place. “It’s my breathing machine,” he told us. “Without it my throat closes up, so in order to keep breathing, I need this thing when I’m sleeping.”

My Stuttgart seatmate and I looked at each other. “Well, we certainly won’t let you forget it when you get off the bus!” and we laughed as he relaxed into the ride.  When his stop came up, we three smiled, wished one other a good day, and said goodbye.

As our big burly guy filed off more people piled on.

The M31 on a much less busy day!
A woman in a lovely citrus green sweater and scarf stood in his spot. She looked my age but seemed to be laboring.  "Do you want my seat?" I asked her.

"Oh no, I'm not on long.  It's just my asthma.  It's so claustrophobic in here I have to get off this bus!"

"Geez, the guy that just left had a breathing machine...how far do you have to go?"

"Oh I work at the Neil Simon Theater, ushering for Big Fish." she told us.

"Sit down," I said getting up from my seat,"I'm getting off at Lex and you're going all the way to Broadway." and she sat while I stood and now we three began to talk about the craziness of traffic in the city during the marathon  how you couldn't cross First Avenue for hours and hours and how maybe next year she just wouldn't work on Marathon Day...

"Well I'm not from here, so likely I won't be around next year at this time" and as I mentioned my hometown she said, "OH that's where my favorite southern author is from  Michael Malone  have you read him?" she asked expectantly, hoping I shared her love of his writing.

"Well, I haven't read him but I have met him and I actually worked with his brother for many years.  Tell me your name and I'll email David to pass on to Michael and let him know he's got this terrific fan in Manhattan."

"WOULD YOU?" she asked with this sparkling excitement, "I'm Linda!"

"Sure," I said, "write down your email for me, but quick, this is my stop!" 

As she scribbled and I scrambled, we all smiled goodbye as I exited the M31.  In my hometown I don’t get to have these chance encounters  these wonderful collisions with the unlikeliest of people, people who don’t look like me, don’t live lives like me, but  with the simplest connection on public transportation we find something in common  a shared sense of fashion, a love of architectural details, travels in Berlin, six degrees of separation, or just the moment of being stuffed on a bus stuck in traffic on the day of the 2013 New York City Marathon.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this, Mel!!!
    So much for the coldness of city people!
    Wherever I go, I have experiences like this.
    Hope all went well with finding a sitter.