Living in New York City makes crowds inevitable (that is if you choose to leave your apartment) and it also means that there are times when the butterfly effect will have far greater meaning than some weird theory. Tonight I found myself on a packed subway platform because something happened six stops downtown, crowd and butterfly effect all in one. There was great potential for this to be a miserable end to a day that had been filled with extremely high highs and extremely low lows, and not a whole lot in between. Instead, I was reminded of just how much I love this crazy city.
The 4 train pulled into the station going the wrong direction. Hoards of people came streaming out of the subway cars as they are making the announcement as to what is going on, which means so much noise and commotion I cannot hear a word of the announcement. The two men in front of me, who were at the subway car door, enter the train after everyone exits. I tentatively enter the subway car and ask them what is going on. They inform me that the subway is going back uptown. Perfect, that’s what I need. We start casually chatting. Some more people enter the car and we continue chatting. Nothing like too many people and a disaster, of what magnitude we have no idea, to bring people together. As the train moves uptown the car become more and more crowded, people have been waiting a LONG time for a train to come. The people around me are all jovial, we’re joking about being squished, and in general just trying to make the best of it. We have chosen to be friendly and kind to one another.
Two stops later there is screaming. Two women are at one another, apparently because one pushed the other while trying to get on what was already a too full subway car. It was in this moment that I was reminded of the power of choice. The people I was surrounded by were all choosing to be kind and find the humor in the situation. These women were choosing to be miserable and rude. The thing is, we all have this power of choice every single second of every single day. We have no control over many situations or environments that we get thrown into, but we do have control over how we react to these things. Sure I wanted to get home and could have easily become very annoyed at the whole thing. I could have been hostile toward the man who was squished against me with his iced coffee pressing into my arm. Instead we both chose to joke about it.
At one point I felt a hand wrap around my wrist, it was the man who had originally told me the train was indeed going uptown. He smiled and said, “I don’t know how you are every going to get off.” I smiled and said, “Thankfully I still have a few stops to figure that one out.” When I finally got to my stop he looked at me and said, “Good luck.” “Thank you,” I replied. “I’m going to need it.” “He gave me one last smile and said, “You can always come to the Bronx with us if you can’t get off.” I did manage to get off the train and I was in a surprisingly good mood, considering a half hour commute took close to an hour in a painfully packed subway car. That is the power of choice.