Apr 2019 10

Been a bit busy with some life stuff to write regularly. But some quick thoughts from a train ride home last night.

Some subway rides feel more electrically charged than others. This was one of them. There’s a feeling among the riders. Sort of a camaraderie of both misery and euphoria as we’re all on our way to somewhere better than wherever we spent our day.

I was jammed into the door area with my headphones on, watching people. A favourite passtime of mine. The human animal is so peculiar. At one stop, a mother and her three kids scampered onto the train, and they surrounded me. Three girls. All under 10. All Japanese, in school outfits. And all carrying stringed instruments like a violin. And very chatty with each other.

Like I said, I had my headphones on, so I couldn’t hear what they were saying but their lip movements – ya, sometimes I try to read lips, so what? – told me they were speaking Japanese. Their mother was doting on them like a happy bird with her flock. I almost wanted to join.

At the next stop, a very tall man carrying a cello case boarded and squeezed between all of us to get on. What are the odds? I think pretty low. I’m surrounded by stringed instruments and a cello just happens to get on board? C’mon.

So I take off my headphones and say to mama bird…

ME: Hey, look. A cello. Now we have a whole orchestra!

BLANK LOOK ON MAMA BIRD’S FACE, AND KIDS

ME: Cause y’know, you all have string instruments and he has a cello.

MAMA LOOKS AT ME QUIZZICALLY AND I REALIZE SHE DOESN’T SPEAK ENGLISH AND I CERTAINLY DON’T SPEAK JAPANESE

Fine, headphones back on.

The girls start whispering to each other and glancing at me, smiling. They might be making fun of me but whatever. It’s cool. I’m happy to provide some weird stranger energy.

Next stop.

A woman wearing a headscarf and with a stroller boards, and squeezes in among us.  I’m wedged up against the stroller. A baby, about 6-8 months I’d say, is in the stroller. A beautiful brown kid with big expressive eyes and goob everywhere. Clearly, a happy baby. Mom looks down at him and smiles. Big smile back.

And then the big expressive eyes are on me.

Shit, I’m having a great ride home.

So, I do what any weirdo would do in this situation.

I start to make ridiculous faces at this baby. Over the next couple of stops, I pull out every non-threatening goofy face I can muster (thankfully, already goofy face) to get this kid giggling.

The tongue wag. The bug eyes. The shifty fish lips. The shocked muppet (a patented look of mine). I’m channeling stuff I haven’t had to pull out of my toolbox since my niece was this age. I work in advertising and writing ads is easy compared to the challenge of entertaining a non-verbal baby.

And success. I see a happy, laughing baby looking up at me. Saliva bubbles of joy, and all. That’s when you know you’ve got them. They’ve lost control of their salivary glands.

The mum and I smile at each other. And then I look over, and the Japanese girls and mum are laughing at me too.

All of us are just enjoying the moment.

Without words.

Somehow in the noise and silence of rush hour among strangers, we found a universal language. Perhaps, it’s ‘dork’.

Then, my stop. I wave to my new baby friend and get off the train, saying nothing.

The doors shut behind me. The wind of the train departing flutters my coat. As I walk the platform, I turn up the music in my headphones a little louder to drown out the noise.