Photo by Mihai Coman (http://mcoman.com/)
I think that often in New York we are trained to be on our guard at all times, wary of anyone who crosses into our precious space bubble. And, a lot of the time, that is a fair way to go about the day, especially on the subway. We are constantly inundated with alerts of “If you see something, say something” (translation for non-New Yorkers…if there is anything that looks remotely like it could be dangerous, try to hunt down someone to let them know) and “hold on to your personal belongings.” Despite this defensiveness, strangers do commit small, random acts of kindness.
I was riding the cross-town L train this afternoon, seated and wearing a skirt. A strange, tall man got on the train a station after me, left his bike leaning against a pole, and went to sit on the opposite end of the train. He just left it standing there. After a few stations, another passenger came up to me and started to say something about how dangerous the bike was. I looked up from playing with my cellphone (technically a bad idea on the train) and quickly defended myself, “It’s notmybike.” But he explained himself, he wanted to warn me that if the bike fell over, it could really hurt my legs. “Thanks,” I smiled, embarrassed that I had d assumed that this man was trying to blame me for the bike. It was large, rusty, and totally unstable.
Despite our tenancy on the train to pretend like no one else exists, this stranger got up and came over to warn me about the bike. In this city of millions, people do watch our for each other. A little bit of kindness like that really made my somewhat disastrous day much better.