Monday, November 9, 2009

When I Grow Up

On the train to NYC today, I was in my usual seat in the third front-facing row of the first car next to the window with two empty seats beside me. At Westport, a woman sat next to me, but I didn't really notice. I was focused on the netbook in my lap and the grant proposals I was hoping to finish grading before reaching the city.

She threw her coat on the rack above my head, half of it landing on top of my backpack. I was annoyed, largely because I've become an ordinary New Englander who sits annoyed at everything. I kept working though.

After Stamford, the last stop before the city, she held yesterday's New York Times Magazine so I could see it. "Would you trust a man who wears a tie like that to handle health care?" I glanced at her. She had a head full of straight, grey hair styled without being too showy and large glasses over her brown eyes. She was probably in her seventies or so.

I looked at the photo. "Are those stingrays on his tie?"

She gave a little laugh. "I don't know what they are, but it looks a bit ridiculous."

She leaned back and kept reading. I was done grading at this point, but I kept my netbook on the seat between us rather than grab my bag to put it away and make a show of moving her coat.

After 125th Street, she kept leaning into the aisle and looking forward. As we entered the tunnel taking us under the Upper East Side, she turned to me. "That's the first time I've ever watched the train go underground. I feel like a kid!"

As we neared the station, I asked if she wanted help getting her coat down. She said no. She asked if I wanted to get out of the seat before her. "Oh, no," I said. "I'm in no hurry," which was true, though I usually run out of the train and station like a bat out of hell since that's what people usually do.

I liked her. I wondered if it was because she reminded me of my mother since they'd be around the same age. But it wasn't that. She was just having fun, and that's rare to see in an adult. I want to be like that.

I want to be her when I grow up.


  1. Good for you. It's so easy to go through life feeling vaguely annoyed. But then you miss being open to encounters like this one.

  2. I love this story -- and the way that you were open to the encounter.