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A Day on the Subway

I was on the subway this morning, late to a meeting. As I got on, I noticed a man occupying three seats. (He was sitting in one and a half and had his bag on the third.) I had to stand for a bit, until someone else got off, in order to sit. Before someone else got off, I thought about asking him to move his bag, but realized that he seemed to be down on his luck, so decided not to bother him. As I stood up to get off at my stop, he first fell sideways, into the empty seat beside him, and then off the seat entirely, on to the floor. The teenagers near me tittered and got off, but I said, "Sir, sir" to him as loudly as I could muster to try to wake him up. He did not move or appear responsive to me. But I was late for a meeting! And this was my stop! What would you do?

On the next train that I was on, a bit later that day, I saw a credit card on the floor, halfway under a seat. A few people were standing near it; I wasn't sure which of them had dropped it. Then I looked up and saw a woman standing with her wallet open, looking for something in it. It was a somewhat crowded car and there were several people between me and her, but I didn't want her to get off the train with her credit card still on the floor. What would you do?

As you get off the train, you notice that something is dripping out of the plastic bag that the woman in front of you is holding. She seems to be carrying a lot--a backpack, a purse, multiple plastic bags. You have no idea what it is, but it looks pretty gross. Is it really any of your business what's leaking out of someone else's plastic bag? Maybe she knows and doesn't care. What would you do?

You see someone crying at a Starbucks as she puts milk and sugar into her coffee. What would you do?

This all happened to or around me in the past twelve hours. A day in the life, as it were. A follow-up post with what I or others did will appear at some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future.

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I was trying to figure out what to do on Sunday in commemoration of 9/11, and nothing that came into my inbox felt right. There was a morning of community service planned in my local Jewish community, which included cleaning up parks and preparing synagogues for high holiday services, but it conflicted with another engagement and it didn't strike as what I most wanted to do. Somehow, hanging out with local Washington Heights Jews felt wrong in commemoration of the day of chaos and bewilderment that I experienced in New York City ten years ago today. It feels too parochial, somehow.

Another thing is that I am back at school. The last full school year in which I was sitting in a classroom, taking notes for classes I was taking for academic credit, began in September 2001. In fact, it began on September 11, 2001. I keep finding myself dating things 9/6/01 instead of 9/6/11 (etc.). It's a weird feeling.

I wrote about my experiences in NYC on 9/11/01 here, in 2006. That was the only year in which I wrote about it, I think, in the 6+ years since I began this blog. It was the fifth anniversary of 9/11. In short, on September 11, 2001, I did some early-morning thesis research at the Barnard Archives and was told, while paying for my microfilm, that a plane (or two planes?) had hit the World Trade Center. I was imagining a little, tiny plane. I got on the subway to head to Penn Station to get my train to Boston, where I needed to arrive by the afternoon to register for the classes for my senior year of college. The subway stopped at 42nd St. and wouldn't go further downtown. I got out and walked down to 34th St. Eventually, I got on the first Amtrak train that was leaving NYC for points north later that afternoon, and when I got back to Boston, I went straight to the campus Hillel, where everyone was glued to the television. I was not really clear on what had happened until a bit later than everyone else, since word on the street in NYC was scattered and confused. I watched some TV at an appliance store in Penn Station, and some people on the street turned their car radios on and opened all their car doors for people to listen. But I didn't have the trauma of one tower falling and then another tower falling. I had no idea. All I knew was chaos and confusion and that something bad was going on. Although I didn't know how bad. On the streets of New York, I watched people stream up from downtown, shaken and bewildered and sharing cell phones to try to call loved ones.

I don't know what to do or say or even really feel. I have the feeling that I get sometimes of simultaneously being in two different places in space-time. Here in NYC, downtown, in September 2011, and in midtown in September 2001. It's a weird feeling. Maybe I will write more on Sunday.

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Blast from the past...

Uterine Wars posted an article about "ghost blogs" from 2007, which asserts that blogging would become less popular starting in 2007. (Note that this is also Uterine War's goodbye post.)

The line that gave me the most pause was "[He] has not been heard from for more than two months, the point at which most analysts consider a blog to be defunct."

If that's the case, then this blog has been defunct many times over! Has it been? Maybe.


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