Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Close Quarters

So I read an article a while ago in the Smithsonian magazine about how New Yorkers aren't really that rude, it's just that they are so used to living in close proximity to millions of other people that it just becomes one big happy family. Because of this, the common niceties that take place in interactions between strangers go away, because there are no strangers, despite the fact no one knows anyone. It's difficult not to have your private life become public when your neighbors can just look across the street and right into your entire apartment, as you happen to walk around naked, or listen to your television, which just so happens to be even louder than theirs (this describes two of my neighbors, by the way).

It's an interesting concept, and has some potential, but I don't think it entirely accounts for big city rudeness. But I digress. I do think that it is true that it is possible to think of the people around you as being closer than they actually are. Take my metro buddies for example. Back when I lived in Adams Morgan I had 2 metro buddies, who would ride in the same train car with me at the same time every day from Woodley Park to Bethesda. We never spoke, but exchanged looks from time to time when there would be the random ranting woman, or person who refused to let someone sit next to them, or other unacceptable metro-riding behavior. Now that I've moved, even though I'm only 2 metro stops down the line, my commute has become much more sporadic, both in the car I ride in and the time that I do it. Because of this, I never see my metro buddies any more and I miss them deeply. My ride was so much more interesting when I shared it with headphones guy and studious glasses guy (I know, not very creative names, but then again, I am an engineer).

But even without my metro buddies, I find ways to pick up on the lives of the people around me. My new walk to the metro takes me past a Caribou Coffee which has tables outside. Pretty soon I began to notice a couple that would frequently be sitting outside, drinking their coffee and reading their newspapers. The reason I noticed them is that they seemed rather mismatched. An older, not so attractive man, and a younger, very attractive woman. In my head I created a sordid love affair, that could only end badly. Sometimes only the man would be there and he would be preoccupied and sad looking and I worried that it was over, but every time the woman came back. With the advent of fall I was worried I would lose touch with my couple, as they would no longer sit outside. And I have lost touch for the past month or so, and every now and then on my way to work I wonder. But this morning, there was a new development. The woman was sitting by herself, looking sad and preoccupied. Hmmm...... And yes, I know it's completely ridiculous, but that's how I pass the time on my daily walk to the metro. Who knows what other Washingtonians are thinking about me?

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