On the train, riding back home. Around 9.30 pm. I took it from the Lower East Side, as usual. The Delancey Street / Essex Street station is well known in the area. The F, M, J, Z, and the A train at times, stop there.
The car doors open and countless people (mostly young) “invade” the car, either returning from their evening coffee or heading to their favorite place to grab a drink. It is Saturday. All New Yorkers are out. For one more time, I observe them while they board, sit, or stand. I have always been fascinated by the different people I see on the subway. I am tired and hungry. I look forward to getting back home and enjoying some good food. Then, I may see some friends.
That guy sitting across from me still drinks his coffee. He does not actually drink it, but just holds it with the one hand while being absorbed by the conversation he has with his friend right next to him. Typical for New Yorkers to commute with a plastic cup of coffee in hand. The rhythms are crazy in this city.
He removes the lid and looks inside. Disappointed, I think. The coffee has probably run out. He carefully observes what is supposed to be his almost empty coffee cup, and then he swiftly puts his hand on top of it. My curiosity builds up. He removes his hand, looks inside for one more time, and then he puts his hand again back to the top to serve as a lid.
Then, it happens…! In his second or third attempt to observe the content of his cup, it jumps from inside, and scared but freed it starts running on the car’s floor like crazy. What follows is a scene taken from a comedy! The riders, especially women, scream, jump to avoid it, and run in every direction. The whole situation is funny, totally amusing, and definitely unexpected. My Saturday ride back home turns in seconds into a scene rarely seen even in the best comedies. The guy, too, runs toward every direction to catch it, but in vain. It is tiny and moves fast. It’s a small baby mouse, like those seen in parks coming out of the bushes for seconds and then rushing back again to their parents.
The panic goes on for one minute, but for many riders, it seems a lifetime. The young guy finally catches it, and with an abrupt movement, he puts it back into his coffee cup. The lid is back, too! Sighs of relief… for the guy… because for the baby mouse, the cup seems like solitary confinement.
Then, silence. Like nothing happened. He goes back to his seat, his hand on top of the tightly-closed this time cup and… everything is back to normal. All started at the speed of light, and all ended at the speed of light.
I pinch myself to see if that is real. Everything is quiet now. The guy, seated already, turns his eyes discreetly to his left and right to catch any strange reaction of the riders. His back straight, and in the same discreet manner, he sends few little smiles to his right and left. He is funny, cute, trendy. It was not a pet mouse. Apparently, it was caught in a park.
I get off, walk to my apartment, and feel blessed that I witnessed for one more time a different side of this city. This is the city where every day is not the same. This is New York!
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Delancey Street / Essex Street Subway station on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A spot that often “hosts” many street artists’ performances (usually by singers), some of whom are not very good, some are excellent, and some are unbelievably talented. This is New York’s Subway that, at moments you don’t expect, makes your commute better than a night at Radio City Music Hall, or simply brings you more laughter than the most popular comedy of the year.