When I first moved to New York City almost 7 months ago, I was a bit trepidatious about how the city would treat me. I had many assumptions about NYC and worried it might cause me to burn out, feel lonely and just not quite fit my personality. And in truth, NYC is noisy, dirty, crowded, and overwhelming, but it also has moments of true magic that don’t only exist in the movies.
Tonight I had exactly this type of quintessential New York moment on the subway. For context, in the last few weeks I have made it one of my personal goals to read more books. In order to effectively do this as a busy graduate student I have made a habit of reading every time I’m on the subway. As a result, in the span of 6 weeks I have read more books than the last 6 months — almost exclusively on my commute. Tonight was no different as I was reading my latest book on the subway. What was different is that I did not have headphones in my ears.
While sitting and reading, I heard a pair of people next to me talking about the book a person across from us was reading. I looked up and recognized the book — “The Four Agreements.” The guy next to me continued by saying how just this week he had seen 4 different people reading this book. Now in many a version of this story, that is where it ends. However, that would not warrant a Medium post. Instead, what happened next was subway magic.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a habit of making conversation with strangers. Instead of ignoring the comment, I added, “well it is a really good book.” Just as suddenly, another guy sitting next to the reader of “The Four Agreements” says, “it really is.” Next thing you know, the woman sitting next to me is also agreeing, the original speakers are asking about the book, and the reader of the book-in-question is sharing how he just started reading it today. Soon everyone was adding related book suggestions and doing show-and-tell with the books they are reading right now.
It was the kind of crazy stranger interaction that sometimes happens in NYC — a city that seems to exist in a dichotomy of people either pretending nobody else exists and avoiding eye contact or having random authentic connections with strangers. It was the kind of interaction that can only happen when people are unplugged.
As my stop was rapidly approaching, I joked “it’s a subway book club — see you all next Tuesday.” And one of my newfound NYC subway reader compatriots said, “Second to last train car.” And while it was all said a bit tongue-in-cheek, part of me wishes it wasn’t. So if any of my fellow subway book club members somehow stumble upon this article — “hello!” — and if not, maybe this random connection of a group of strangers on the M train was meant to be just a sliver of NYC magic.