Happy New Year everyone! This post has been in my queue for some time to be finalized, but the holidays kept me busy! Plus, I'm 4 months pregnant, so there are a lot of changes happening for me this year. Cheers to 2013 and enjoy the post below!
"CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU!" asked a female's very loudly from the NJ transit train aisle. I looked up from my blackberry (I was still working during my commute home) and saw a grinning woman with hair braided in two pigtails who seemed to be about my age but looked very childlike in demeanor.
"Sure," I mumbled and returned my attention to an email from a writer.
She plopped down next to me in the two-seater and announced, "They say just stay calm because everything will be alright! RIGHT?" She gave me a dopey grin.
I chuckled, "Yes. That is true," I responded and then went back to my phone.
Ms. Smiley continued loudly (I don't think she had ever heard of using an inside voice!), "I just moved into an apartment that doesn't have free heat! The social worker tricked me! I was living in an apartment that already had free heat, but she made me move and now my electric bill will be like $500! Why would she do that? My mother said you can only trust your family. Is that true?"
"Sometimes," I replied. Ignoring her was not going to work, which was okay because I realized I was getting good content for EWS!
"And the social worker is college educated! Can you believe that she would do that? They say people who can't get real professional jobs become social workers, so they are bitter. Do you think that's true?"
"Um...not sure," I said softly, trying not to laugh. I noticed the surrounding commuters were annoyed by my seatmate's boisterous commentary.
"Did you just graduate from high school?" Smiley asked with deep curiosity on her face.
"Oh, from college then?"
"No. Graduated from college almost ten years ago. I work."
"Wow! You look so young! I failed out of college. I got straight As in high school, but they spoonfeed you there, don't they? When I got to college it was hard. Should I try to go back?"
"Sure. I have an uncle who didn't graduate until he was in his 40s. It's never too late!" I encouraged.
"They say if you make $77,000 a year the millionaires don't have nothing on you. Is that right?" Before I could respond she continued, "And if you get a college degree and start working you can make a million dollars."
It was true that there is a concept some believe in, which states all of your needs are met once your salary is $77k (I don't think that applies to New Yorkers very well!).
We were now at Mountain station. I asked her to move so I could get up and exit the train at my stop, South Orange. Instead of sitting back down, she stood next to me by the door. She wasn't done chatting!
"I like your hair. Mine keeps falling out," Smiley said. Even when she was degrading herself she sounded so positive and didn't stop smiling.
"Thank you. My hair has fallen out before and it was because of stress." I don't know why I said that--I guess to show her that my hair wasn't perfect. I said goodbye to her on my way out and she yelled, "Have a happy holiday!"
I thought about Smiley a lot that evening. When she sat down next to me I thought she was your standard crazy person who I needed to ignore (a la NYC). She was socially awkward, yes, and a little slow mentally, but her banter about life put a smile on my face. It was a nice reminder for the cynical ex-New Yorker in me that you never know how a stranger could affect your perspective on life.