Thursday, July 30, 2009

love, actually

i hate commuting. i mean i reaaaalllly hate commuting. the traffic, the crowds, the pushing, the incessant noise...all before a decent hour or at the end of a long day. i know it's something that most of us deal with, but it's one of those things that i personally just have a very low tolerance for. it's a timesuck and it's hands down the worst part of every day for me. i try to doll it up with reading or eavesdropping on conversations or walks through grand central market, but it is what it is and i hate it.

once, i boycotted the subway for a year. i became obsessed with the idea that people acted as if being underground rendered them invisible - spitting, shouting and some things i dare not mention here. eventually it became too inconvenient to boycott, and i gave in to what i had been calling a "subhuman" mode of transportation for a year. the subway is, by far, the worst leg of my commute - everything is dirty and hot, sticky and often wet. and that just describes the surfaces, nevermind some of the people.

recently, i had a particularly horrid rush hour with a broken escalator and only one staircase for both up and down (for the second week in a row) and it was then i started thinking another boycott might be in my near future.

but i was momentarily softened at the sight of a man -- a stranger as it turned out -- helping a woman with a double stroller down the stairs and through the crowd. i tried to quiet the hateful commuter rage inside me - the thought that people are good and nice even when they're hot and late and tired - that fact should make me happy.

i wasn't quite there yet.

next, i saw a woman swipe her metrocard for someone who had a non-working one, and then i saw them go separate ways - they, too, were strangers. my mood was lifting. i started to have that feeling of "we're all in this together" - everyone hates commuting, everyone has stresses and everyone is hot in this goddamn sweatbox...has the mta never heard of air conditioning? are they amish?

well, just to underscore my love actually feel-good airport moment (though a dingy underground subway station is several rungs down from heathrow), i then saw an elderly woman all but carried down the stairs by a young man who saw her struggling, almost washed away in the sea of people...people just like me, who only moments before were pushing through to get to the train, only to stand three sweaty rows deep on the platform anyway.

you really should take a gander at the scene from love actually, even if you've seen it before. it's a good one.

i was sort of amazed at how, in such close succession, i witnessed so many acts of kindness. i felt a little floaty and out of body-ish, and once i determined i was not in fact about to pass out, i pondered whether this series of events was a coincidence. i considered that these moments might always be there to be seen if you're open to them, which usually doesn't coincide with being open to barking "does your wife know you push women on the train?"

who would bark such a thing? certainly not me...

having witnessed this love-fest, i felt close to tears - anytime i feel communal, i feel teary. just as hugh grant actually is all around. i could have hugged those men and women helping fellow commuters, but if i had, we might have all exploded from extreme heat exposure, so i just smiled instead.

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