There were very few places to sit while waiting for the train bound to Grand Central Station. It was a pleasant day, unusually warm for November. She looked around the tiny waiting room and made a quick decision to exit onto the platform and find a place away from the exuberant children and their parents who might be on their way to the newly opened Christmas Show at Radio City. It seemed that one stroller held not one, but several toddlers, with tap-dancing siblings who She was certain were only just beginning. So, out, to the left, down the platform and into the morning air she bolted. It felt good. She immediately sensed her freedom and welcomed the time to collect her thoughts and review the day ahead. Plans had been made to meet up with two good friends for a classic New York Saturday morning event, brunch on the Upper East Side, and then she would go on to a free class in fiction writing at the 67th Street library later in the afternoon. She needed the time to review the whens and wheres before the train arrived. She had a feeling that this would be an especially crowded train with only a few Saturdays left before Christmas.
Ah ha! A bench with one empty seat. Perfect. She sat down, slowly, knowing that the seat would certainly rock if she came down hard, causing the two other occupants to feel the movement and perhaps become annoyed. This is a skill that one must acquire if one is to survive the rigors of commuting from the suburbs into the city and, after a number of years, she had mastered this and barely made her presence known as she sat down. There are people who find the slightest movement, coming from a stranger, to be annoying and oftentimes, these, the annoyed, show or speak their disdain. It's part of being a New Yorker just as much as rolling, never fully stopping, at a red light while driving. So, when the Other Lady on the bench turned and started to speak, She was ready. Here it comes, She thought, apology on the way....... But, instead of an expected admonishment, She got a hello.
"Hello, are you on your way to work today?"
A brief "no" and then "Oh, you're done with that?" followed.
"I'm on my way to a Jewish film festival at the JCC today" said the Other Lady.
Immediately, the conversation took off and had a life of its own as they sat on the bench, exchanging bits and pieces of their current life, where they lived, how they got to the station on this morning, and what life could possibly be like on Cape Cod without a big Jewish population. Tsk, tsk, such a shame, no JCC on Cape Cod. They really got a lot in before the arrival of the 10:49 Express. She appreciated the open conversation, the sharing, the warmth from the wrinkle-faced woman who just minutes before had been a complete stranger but was no longer. They were two new and good friends, sharing a bench, each on their way to a fun day in Manhattan. They exchanged names, "I'm Anita" "I'm Lynn".
The train arrived and they parted. She was happy in the fact that they would not be sitting together on the train. Her new friend waved and told her to have a good day and each found their way into separate cars for the thirty minute ride.
Arriving at Grand Central is always a thrill. It's vast and beautiful. She never tired of these arrivals, even after the many years of commuting back and forth before her retirement. The sights, sounds and aromas coming from the food and bakery shops never wore thin. As she walked from the train, through the concourse, she noticed the throngs of people. Tourists staring up at the ceiling, guides pointing at the constellations in the painted blue sky above their heads, one of the big attractions in the station. She weaved in and out of the crowd, glancing at the big brass clock in the middle of the concourse, the famous meeting place. She calculated that she had just enough time to make it to her lunch date by walking up Lexington Avenue and then over to Second and 74th. She was looking forward to the brisk walk and to seeing what was new since her last visit the month before. New York is like that. One day a coffee shop on the corner, the next day it's a shoe store. As She started past the ticket windows, there, in amongst the array of newly arrived passengers stood her new friend. She told herself that Anita had been so warm and so inviting and that they had such a chummy conversation before leaving White Plains, she surely would be very happy to see her again so She waved. It was a huge wave. She used both arms, swung them high in the air as she called out "Hi Anita!"....... Blank stare."It's Lynn"......Still blank. ."From the train station?".......Blank stare and tiniest hint of recognition. "Oh yes, hello".
Clearly, Anita had moved on.