Friday, July 27, 2007

"It's a City of Strangers": How to Check Out People on Public Transportation

Okay, admit it: every so often you find yourself on the bus or the subway and suddenly ... a vision walks on. A person of extra-ordinary beauty, someone "really hot" or "totally gorgeous", someone who clashes mercilessly with the kennel of people who usually rides the MTA. This person acts like a magnet for your eyes. Suddenly the ads for Dr Zizmor and the other passengers melt away ... and you lock your eyes on this person and stare ... stare ... stare. But ... oh no! Now you've crossed the line! You've gone over to the other side. You have become ... a creepy person! You're a creepy staring person! And now your l'object d'amour might whip out the pepper spray at any moment. You want to stop staring but you can't ... for the life of you, you just can't! So what do you do? Never fear, for Mr NYC is here to guide you through the art of checking out people on public transportation. Just follow these five simple rules:

1. When you first spot "the person", don't stare too long. Like Jerry Seinfeld once said, act like this person is the sun: you get a sense of the thing, then look away.

2. When you next look at the person, DO NOT STARE DIRECTLY. Use subterfuge. Pretend to read one of the ads above your head or, better yet, act like you're looking for one of the bus or subway maps on the wall. You can then check out the person who ... oh, you know, just happens to be in your line of vision. Make sure people think you are trying to look at something and not someone. Then you can more easily get away with looking at the person.

3. It helps if you have reading material. Then you can look up from it every so often to, you know, see what's going on and to, oh yeah, check out the hottie.

4. When the bus or train pulls into a stop, pretend to stare out the window. You know, you want to see what's going on outside, and who is getting on or off. This is a custom-built moment to check out "the vision."

5. If all else fails, and you just can't keep your eyes off this person, and you've done steps 1 to 4, maybe multiple times, then do this: pretend that, oh darn it, you have a crook in your neck, and you need to rub it and you gotta bend your head, oh, this way ... and then that way ... and you're just looking out ahead of yourself and ... oh wow, there he or she is! What a coincidence!

I hope you will find these steps useful. But please understand: Mr NYC does not, in any way, endorse any kind of harassment or talking to or touching of any stranger on public transportation. There is a galaxy of difference between "checking someone out" and actually trying to interact with another person. I hope this disclaimer is well understood.

And so I conclude with something by Stephen Soundheim, who in his great NYC musical "Company" observed:

It's a city of strangers,
Some come to work, some to play.
A city of strangers,
Some come to stare, some to stay.
And every day
The ones who stay
Can find each other in the crowded streets and the guarded parks,
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks,
And they walk together past upholstered walls with the crude remarks.
And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never know ...

... And another hundred people just got off of the train.

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