I was riding home from work, listening to my mp3 player, not paying much attention to what was going on around me. I was tired– it has been a long, boring day, and I had just started back to work again, feeling the oppression of not being able to take a nap in the middle of the day. I had on my raincoat, and had bundled drizzle-damp umbrella and tote bag and book so nothing got wetter than it had to. So when I felt a small nudge to my right knee, I ignored it– too tired to argue with some space-invading jerk. But again, and again, immediately on top of the last.
I looked over and saw what I’d long since forgot. Two seats over, a little boy, no more than five, was kneeling on the seats, his nose pressed against the subway car window. His feet were facing back, into the car, and he was squirming back and forth, craning around to show his dad “that light, that sign, that signal. There’s that pit! What’s it for? Is that where the workers hide when the train is coming?” He had a question for everything.
I’d forgotten the lure of the tunnel lights, the sine wave bobs and dips of the wiring, encased in grungy steel tubing, running straight, then UP, over the safety pit, and DOWN, back to where it was before it continued running forward. When we got out of the tunnel, he continued: “What’s that? Have I been there? Can we go? Have you gone?” He echoed the announcer’s every station stop, and wanted to know what kind of people lived at each stop. “Do they have houses like us? What do they do for work?”
I didn’t get the chance to thank the little boy for the kick-in-the-knee reminder that there is always something to see.