It started out as a typical morning. I got onto a packed Metro North train heading to Grand Central Station. As I stood in the aisle looking for an available seat, I spied one right in front of me in the five-seater. Five seaters are tricky because they’re composed of a three-seater facing a two-seater. There’s no way that five people with legs can sit together in this configuration. The most that can fit in a five-seater are four people and that’s if one person has his or her legs in the aisle, or over his or her head.
I was fortunate; the three-seater held one man, who was sitting in the aisle seat, and a woman who sat across from him in the two-seater. I asked them both, “May I sit with you?” The woman smiled assent. The man–a nice looking guy in his forties wearing a suit (I’m supplying these details to impart his normal appearance)–looked at me and said in a surprised tone, “Of course! I’ve been waiting for you!” I responded happily, “I was really hoping I’d run into you today.” He laughed because, of course, we had never seen each other before that moment. Then I climbed over him, sat by the window in the three-seater and promptly fell asleep.
As the train pulled into the station, I yawned, stretched my arms and said, “Good morning!” The woman across from me had changed. Not magically, though. The original one had gotten off and another had taken her place while I slept. She smiled at me like I was dangerous. The man, however, said, “Oh, are you still here?” I laughed and started to stand up. He got up and asked if I’d like his Wall Street Journal. It seemed like he wanted to give me something, and that was all he had to offer. I hesitated, so he assured me that he had another one at his office. I felt like I’d offend him if I said no, so I thanked him and took it. Then he said, “It was nice seeing you again. Next time, I’ll cover your ticket.” I told him that wasn’t necessary since I had a monthly pass. He looked disappointed but then he perked up and said, “I’d give you a hug but a pen exploded in my hand and I’d be afraid to touch your white jacket.” Then he showed me his ink-stained fingers. I was at a loss. I apologized for not having packed an ink remover in anticipation of this event. He shrugged and said he’d take care of it later and that I should have a great day. Then he left.
The whole episode was incrediby odd but hilarious. I felt happy for hours because every time I thought of his pretending we were old friends, I’d burst out laughing. I don’t even know if I’d recognize him if we ever ran into each other again, which I hope we don’t. We had our moment. Now it’s my turn to amuse a fellow traveler. With any luck I’ll choose someone who appreciates my overly familiar overture and not someone who shrinks back in alarm and rings for the conductor.
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