further notes on the commute

I've learned a lot about my commute. I've learned not to run for the 5:11, I've learned that the 7:36 brings a much nicer subway ride, I've learned which cars on the train have loud-cell-phone-talkers.
And, now that I've learned to move methodically through my commute rather than frantically, I have time to observe - and you know I'm keen on the observing.
Last night I was busy observing and was well rewarded for not running (like a crazy woman) for my train.
The station is especially crowded at ten past five. People move in swarms, some running, for trains in several directions. The tension is palpable. The sound is deafening in a strangely quite way. Last night, I was moving with slow determination toward my train when I noticed that a crowd had gathered and stood in a circle. It was near where they sell flowers and there was funk music playing loudly. Everything felt different and, for a second, I couldn't figure out if something had happened, if something bad was occurring. I moved closer to the crowd and realized that they were watching a couple of men break dancing. Just beyond them, a woman in a Santa hat was manning a boom-box and a fourth guy was passing a bucket for donations.
The music was booming through the station, the woman with the radio was dancing in place and the dancers were extraordinarily good.
Bear in mind: there are always performers of one type or another at the station. People rarely take notice of them. There is a guy with a keyboard who plays show tunes, there are the requisite South American pan flute players, and some days there is a guy with a saxophone. Commuters rush past these buskers all day, every day, without giving them so much as glance.
But last night was different. The dancers had captivated the crowd and people were not running past them. One of them was tall and very thin. He wore green leggings and a green shirt and had pads on so that he could spin and leap and fall on the floor. I was mesmerized.
And then, when I thought I could not be more impressed, I was.
A woman standing near me, in an overcoat and scarf, carrying a briefcase, stopped dead in her tracks.
She put down her case, removed her coat and scarf and moved into the open space the dancer was moving in.
She started dancing with him.
At first I thought she was a plant - a shill...I couldn't let myself believe she had nothing to do with the performers. But she danced for a couple of minutes. She lost herself in the music and they did not seem to know her or she them.
And, as quickly as she had become part of the performance, she stopped. She came back to the edge of the crowd and retrieved her things. She made a dash for the 5:24 and disappeared down a hallway and I realized that she hadn't known them, she hadn't been planted in the crowd. She had simply joined them.
For just a few moments we were not commuters, we were not rushing to the next thing, we were not a crowd moving from one thing to the next without thinking and looking and feeling. For a moment we stopped time and danced.


Anonymous said…
That is beautiful, I always looked at this enormous sea of people at the station more or less business like and thought that they all must have their own life, their own THING. And this woman showed it to you all. NICE. That is WHEN I happen to be there!
WF schemen
thank you.
Anonymous said…
What a wonderful gift.
smalltownme said…
How great was that. I love reading your observations.
Keetha said…
What a great story. I can picture it so clearly.
Anonymous said…
That was amazing.
jordi said…
I do believe that some people "summon" these kinds of things, and you do for sure. It has to do with being open to it happening, so glad you were there for this one!

My "word" by the way is kerblog. Pretty appropriate since it has been a while since my last appearance at my blog, and I am trying not to think about losing the mojo...
alice c said…
I am trying to imagine having the courage to do this. And failing.

It is about breaking through that invisible barrier that separates the performer from the audience - even in informal situations such as a station in rush hour.
barbra said…
Wow, I am really cynical this morning. I still think she must have been a plant.

Maybe it's because my right eye is stinging today and I can't put in my contacts. Glasses. Ugh.
Sarah said…
And to think they say nothing ever fazes New Yorkers (or Tuvaluvians).
Anonymous said…
Shoot. I've been break dancing since '84. Breakin'2: Electric Boogaloo. Ya heard?

PS-I rushed off after my performance at the train station because I had to catch my flight to Frankfurt.

That's all.
Anonymous said…
I haven't lived in NYC for 45 years but I can't believe it's changed so much that someone could leave their things and no one would have run off with them.

Sorry to be a downer. I think that what makes us fearful of going with the music is the fear of risking loss.
Anonymous said…
Serendipity. It's a wondrous thing.
Anonymous said…
You really need a tiny video camera for Christmas. You know, like a Flip. We of the internets would be so appreciative. Your words today have painted a picture I would love to see with my eyes. My heart is happy, though.

Stomper Girl said…
Wow. I'd love to be free enough to do that. I'd need alcohol first.
Anonymous said…
What a magical thing to encounter!
Mary said…
This is one of your best posts ever.

I swear I was there.
Amy A. said…
Anonymous said…

Thank you.

(And btw, thank you for the referral a few months back re: your "insightful" friend. She amazed me.)