I took the train into the city this morning, with my husband and daughter. It wasn’t that crowded, for a change. I actually got a seat!
Right before my daughter’s stop, someone pulled the emergency brake. The train stopped suddenly and we stayed put for about 20 minutes or so. Most of the car’s occupants kept on doing normal commuter stuff: sleeping, reading, listening to music, etc. One man decided to audibly complain the entire time we waited to restart the journey. Between his sighs and the “We’re stuck!” that he called out about 10 minutes in, you’d think more people would have reacted to him. Actually, no one did. The train was full of folks not really noticing each other. We can look right at another person but not recall the color of their eyes or what kind of shirt they wore.
Why do I even mention this? As I waited to continue to my doctor’s office, I was thinking about the innumerable number of people that we pass every day. Between school, work & commuting, I know most of the people I pass at least enough to recognize and acknowledge. I also greet crossing guards, babies & small kids, people with adorable dogs and others. It’s how I was raised, even though I’m a lifelong New Yorker. And it’s the way I still am. Knowing the people whose lives intersect with our own might seem trivial to some, but it’s not.
We’ve always taught our daughter about street safety, especially as she began traveling to and from school, friends’ houses and the subway on her own. Teaching her that if ever she felt unsafe, she could always go into a local business and call me. I’d then meet her and we’d walk home together. When I listed the stores on that safe list, it was a lot of places! We chose stores with employees that know us. People we chat with every time we shop. Thankfully, she’s never needed to enact that plan, but it gave me peace of mind.
When I think of the people who know me by name in various stores, I joke about being there too often. Let’s think about this. It’s the pharmacy, grocery store, the bagel store/deli, Starbucks…. to name a few. But think about it, where better to be known – and liked – than your favorite coffee spot and pharmacy? Like Cheers for the caffeine dependent and chronically ill. “Where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.” I could say it’s embarrassing, but my coffee is always perfect and my meds are filled expertly. What more could I hope for? I’m a (sort of) simple gal, LOL.
It’s hard to connect with other people when we don’t have loads of time to get to know them. Somehow, most of us manage to do that a little bit each day, even if we aren’t aware that it’s happening. The cashier in the grocery store. The secretary at your child’s school. The bus driver you meet every morning. We notice when people aren’t there.
When a local car service driver asks me “when’s the show?” (costumes!) and the young guys in the bagel store ask “how’s school?” it means something to me. It means that my small life doesn’t go unnoticed. Just as their lives are memorable to me, so is mine to them.
Wishing each of you a wonderful weekend, smiles from neighbors and the feeling that you matter. Because you do.
Peace & painlessness,