The L Train's no fun - particularly during rush hour, particularly during the summer. I stepped on this morning to find it muggier and more crowded than I can remember. You can always feel the tensity on packed trains: people jostling uncomfortably, clearing their throats or shooting dirty looks in response to unintentional (or passive-aggresive) elbow nudges or encroachments on personal space. Everyone seems to silently be fighting the innate instinct to panic -- because we are literally shoulder to shoulder with a few dozen strangers, shut up in a tin can hurtling underground.
From the few shouting matches I've seen aboard crowded subway cars, I've come to view them as tinderboxes awaiting the smallest spark. And today, between Bedford and First Avenue (somewhere under the East River) a woman began tugging at my arm and yelping and that potential spark turned out to be (most bizarrely) a renegade wasp trapped in the train with us.
A few people began ducking and darting, trying to protect themselves frantically from the wasp whizzing around the car. I couldn't help but imagine the impending chaos - people screaming in terror, trampling each other as the wasp stung the shit out of everyone. But as an old lady shrieked and pointed out the wasp (momentarily resting on the window of the subway door), a tall guy rolled up his New York magazine and smacked the wasp against the glass. My dread soon subsided as my instant, involuntary response was to shout out "hell yeah!" at this man's heroic deed. Everyone cheered for about three seconds, then returned to silently reading the paper or nodding along to the muffle of their iPods.
I can't help but think of this as a "New York Moment" (although I have a lot of these -- why am I so surprised that I have so many "New York Moments" in New York?). The crowded subway car (already a staple of New York life) is interrupted by a surreal occurance (the wasp), New Yorkers band together in celebrating the hero of the subway (a moment of unity and pride), then quickly go back to their daily routine of typical New York nonchalance as if nothing had happened.
And this got me thinking... what New York Moments are people having out there right now? Lay 'em on me.
NOTE I probably stole this from Profs. Patel and Waterman from Writing New York. But that's just an indicator of how their course got lodged in my brain. So really, it's a compliment.