August 3, 8:18 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square
The crowd in the 7th Avenue stop at 8 a.m. is identical to the crowd at 9:30 a.m. One couple talks happily, neither dressed for an office job. Everyone is occupied by their book or blackberry, or, nothing. One man appears to be holding a printout of every page of this week’s New Yorker, stapled together in the top right corner.
The people may be the same earlier in the morning, but there are certainly more of them. One man in his late 50s with wraparound sunglasses on, perhaps not knowing (or perhaps not caring) how close his ears are to others in the packed train, listens to “Toxic” at an unfortunate decibel level. Next to him a woman zooms in on a picture of herself on her digital camera. Recently, she was trigger-happy in a country of indeterminate Asian origin. Each time the women comes across a picture of herself she zooms in to her face, deciding whether to delete it. A picture in front of a market stays. One in front of a temple disappears forever. Faces of family or friends appear in some of the pictures. She holds a tissue in her hand, and, with no apparent pattern, dabs beneath her eyes. Britney’s fan exits the train graciously early, and is replaced by a woman with her iPod playing at an undetectable volume and a large-print Sudoku printed from a web site offering “BILLIONS OF FREE SUDOKU PUZZLES.”
Across the aisle are three women, one reading today’s AM New York with a headline a sad looking Mets fan offering a heap of tickets on the cheap. The two middle-aged women next to her have matching orange bags: one is paper, from Banana Republic, the other is glossy pleather, from wherever one gets glossy orange pleather bags. Their animated speech, the only conversation at this end of the train, is in Russian, meaning they’ve been on this train since Brighton Beach. The first woman stands and leaves her newspaper, which is quickly snatched up and slipped into an outside pocket of the glossy orange pleather bag.