27 April 2007

"I Hope You All Are Cozy"

On my warm, damp subway car this morning, just past 72nd Street, the conductor's voice came over the PA. "I hope you all are cozy," he began, and right away, I felt people tense up. This is one of the newer subway cars, the ones with the recorded announcements about the upcoming station. It's unusual to hear the live conductor's voice, except when there's a problem.

"I hope you all are cozy," could mean, "we're going to be stuck in the tunnel for a while." But he went on, cheerfully, about how we all needed to be considerate of each other, and make sure to stand out of the way to let people on and off the train. To a sodden and cranky group of people -- I describe primarily myself here -- he struck just the right tone of friendliness. Too much of that and you want to stick things in your ears. Like pencils.

"If you are traveling in a crowded car," he continued, "look at it as an opportunity to get to know your fellow New Yorkers." I heard only one person groan at that; the rest of the car was laughing (though not taking him up on the getting to know your neighbor part). He wished us to have a safe and pleasant day, to get to our destinations and be happy to be there.

There's something about an unexpected deviation from the script that we seem to like here in the city. Maybe it's the idea that the conductor might actually like his job, instead of being one of those resentful civil servants who hate everyone. Maybe it's that it reminds us that no matter what very serious thing we're thinking about, we are, after all, traveling in reasonable comfort around a reasonably safe city. What do we have to complain about?

Whatever the reason, I ended my journey at 34th street in a considerably better mood than when I started, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one.

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