I love people watching. I find the passing tableau of human drama endlessly fascinating. Trust me – it’s worth putting the smartphone away and paying attention to what’s happening around you. This past weekend, I hit the trifecta of snooping: subways, airports and shops in New York City.
Scene 1: We’re on a subway and an elderly Polish lady, dressed all in pink (for Mother’s Day, perhaps), going to Penn Station randomly asks a hulking young man of decidedly intimidating appearance for help getting her bag out of the car and onto the platform. You could not have picked a more unlikely duo for this particular dialogue.
He was engrossed in a conversation with his friend and didn’t hear her at first. When she asked again, he wasn’t sure what she said because of her thick accent. Finally, a young pregnant girl beside them offers to help. The Polish lady refuses and starts pointing at the man and scolding vigorously. The young man shrugs, the Polish intonations still coming a little too thick and fast for him to understand. The young girl translates, “She wants you to help because you’re big.”
He grins sheepishly and picks up the suitcase. The Polish grandmother toddles off happily.
Scene 2: We’re walking through an airport and a young man is coming home from college (again, perhaps for Mother’s Day.) He’s meandering his way from the gate, weaving back and forth across the concourse and trying to carry on a somewhat agitated conversation with said mother. My first instinct is to pass him but then I decide to hold back and eavesdrop a little bit. The son obviously has no patience for his mother:
“Mom, I told you, I never asked you to come and get me. It was your idea…”
“Why are you picking me up in departures? I’m arriving. You should be in arrivals…”
“I can’t help it if you have to go all the way around again to get there. You should have thought of that before you pulled into the airport.”
I can only imagine how the rest of this Mother’s Day visit went. Next time, let him catch a cab.
Scene 3: We’re in one of those tacky souvenir shops off Times Square (no, it wasn’t my idea). Two elderly ladies come in and ask to see a T shirt that says “Help Donald Drumpf make America Great Again”
“Why is it spelled ‘Drumpf’?”
The shop owner (in another thick accent – Middle Eastern this time), “It’s wacky spelling.”
“It’s a joke. It’s a jokey T-shirt”
“Do you have one spelled correctly?”
“You want real t-shirt?”
“No, we only have the jokey ones.”
Meanwhile, outside a sidewalk prophet is yelling that Jesus is the only true way and that we are headed straight to hell while standing under a 60-foot high electronic screen advertising “The Book of Mormon.”
New York – you crack me up.