The Subway Experience in New York City is, nowadays, quite different from the one I wrote about previously here. The cane-seated cars are gone, and I don’t think you can open the windows anymore as you could in those old cars. But they have air-conditioning in some cars.
The outsides–well, graffiti has moved from vandalism to an art form on the subway cars. And there is art inside the cars, too. Some is theater like the violinist I wrote of before: musicians playing for tips. I have to consider as a kind of theater also the intricate stories woven by others in search of donations. There is also the parade of people who wear the unconventional like a badge in their clothing and hair-styles.
And there are angry people: bullies and thieves. My dad was sitting by a door one winter day, wearing a Russian lambswool ushanka, a very elegant version of the traditional winter hat, and when the doors opened at a station, someone exiting grabbed the hat off my dad’s head, and was gone with it as the doors closed.
There is courage, too, of people standing up to the bullies, of whole cars looking after the target of the bullying. There is simple kindness and generosity: I saw a report of a man taking off his own T-shirt and giving it to another man who looked homeless, who had no shirt at all.
There is connection between strangers on the subway: I was once rushing from home in freezing weather, late for an appointment. I had run out into the cold before my hair was dry from the shower, and by the time I was seated, my hair had frozen, and I sat there brushing ice out of my locks! More than one person smiled at the sight, which was odd and funny, and I also laughed.
Basically, when you shove a batch of people together in a closed space for a time, human things happen, good and bad. It is, from one station to the next, a captive audience, and people will be people.