Today I traveled into Nueva York and sat in Starbucks on 78th Street & Lexington Avenue, an area rife with young urban professionals. A young man was next to me anchored to his notebook with a cell clamped on his ear. He was talking to someone about trying to eke out a living and how he was going to be there until 5. He didn't sound happy. After signing off, he hunched over his screen and pecked.
On the platform at Grand Central, I noticed two gigantic Norwegian Gray rats scampering around the tracks. They looked happy and well-fed. Not gloomy like the humans present. They chased each other in a knotty arrangement around the tracks jumping skillfully over the third rail.
Meanwhile, the train was coming. Everyone moved back from the edge of the platform in unison to prevent some stranger from pushing them down onto the tracks to give the train a better shot at them. This hadn't happened in a long time but it was threaded into the DNA of every subway rider. Someone will take a dislike to you and shove you off the platform. In fact, every NY Post headline was a part of you, throbbing, directing your unconscious responses. Ignore anyone who is talking loudly. Silently suffer the Mariachi clamor. Step over the crumpled faceless homeless man covered in newspapers lying across the seats.
Don't pay attention to that man talking to himself in the corner. But the problem is, now you can't tell anymore if he's schizo or talking on the phone. Technology has altered our assumptions about reality. Either this guy is crazy and on the lower strata of society, or he's a busy executive (ha! This is Depression 2.0!) multitasking.
The glorious panoply of colorful immigrants, brown, yellow, green, red, white, were all plugged into their iPods. The etiquette of the subway used to insist that no one make eye contact. Now there was no need to enforce the rules. No one was even aware of anyone else.