That one time when a subway performer and an angry stranger connected on a NYC subway platform
Anything can happen when a diverse set of people share common space as we do everyday in big cities across the country. A lot of these interactions happen on public transportation.
Those interactions runs the gamut. For every subway argument or fight that spreads on social media, there’s thousands of friendly interactions in the middle just trying to accommodate for one another as we share these small spaces. And somewhere in between the major blowouts and the forgotten small acts of kindness are ones that require no words. Sometimes it’s just a nod or a smile, and then sometimes people connect, no matter how different they may be, through our human emotions.
That’s what happened more than a year. Late night on September 21, 2013 approaching 3 AM, I entered the subway at 42nd street. As I came down the stairs, there was a buzz of people awaiting the train to either go home, or continue the night.
There was a subway performer, a man in white playing his guitar and singing on the platform. Without knowing the man, you could easily tell that no matter what song he sang or strummed on his guitar, each song would convey his gentle soul.
A moment later, the buzz and the singing was interrupted. A man in an orange t-shirt sloppily walked down the platform stairs dragging behind him an extra-large, beat up piece of roller luggage and mumbling to himself as if he was irritated.
It was clear that he wasn’t in a good mood. He may not have been in a bad one, but he wasn’t happy. Every person on the platform took notice of the man in orange, each measuring their safe distance as he moved across the platform. His presence completely changed the mood from a nice buzz to a somewhat tense atmosphere.
The man in orange was in his own world. He lumbered across the platform without looking up once. That is until he neared the man with the guitar.
As he passed the man with the guitar. He suddenly stopped and moved back just enough to stand in front of the man with the guitar. The man in orange discontinued his grumbling, looked up and stared as the man in white continued to play his guitar.
The man in orange didn’t say one word; just glared. Everyone else froze too; we were like a bunch of deer that sensed danger. We all held our breath, unsure of what would happen next. Those several seconds that he stared at the man in white felt like forever.
The man with the guitar looked back at the man and continued strumming and singing “Shout”. The man in orange began to dance. As freely and as unbalanced as he was earlier, he now was dancing and snapping his fingers with that same carelessness.
A collective sigh of relief quickly turned into laughter. Cell phones were quickly whipped out.
The man in orange raised his arms above his head and shook his hips, still unaware of anything else but the man with the guitar and now an acoustic version of “Billie Jean.”
The man with the guitar cracked a warm, thankful smile as the man in orange continued dancing.