It was late last week.
The Yankees were, at least clinically speaking, still alive.
I was Walking the Plank, in search of an aisle seat of some sort, after a few days of being forced to stand on the p.m. ride home.
It was an old rustbucket train. I saw a judge’s bench available–those weird, square, folding one-seaters, awkwardly facing a three-seat bench. You’re higher than the rest of the seats in the car, and facing them all.
You are the judge.
I grabbed it. I sheepishly looked at the woman across from me, as if to apologize for blocking her view of an ad and the vestibule with, well, me.
She was perhaps 50, blonde, dressed up a bit, pleasant looking.
“I feel like a judge when I sit up here,” I quipped to break the ice.
“Don’t remind me,” she said. “I just came from jury duty.”
She said she had to schlep in each day for federal JD from Katonah. The word “federal” perked up the ears of the man she shared the three-seater with–a hulking, ruddy faced gent who, in fact, is an attorney, and was often involved in jury selection.
He briefed us on the shortcomings of federal jury selection. I lamented the lack of lunchtime dining spots around Centre Street, at least when I did my civic duty a decade ago (other than boozy cop bar Baxter’s, that is), and he offered up a number of options.
The three of us, strangers, were actually conversing, like commuters from an era.
Alas, I just wanted to check the Yankees score–they’d had a 4:07 kickoff–on my Blackberry.
See, I don’t like the Bombers much; in fact, I wrote this about being a Mets fan/Yankees disliker (it seems wrong to use the word “hate” when discussing a baseball team, even if that is perhaps the most accurate description) in the 914 this time of year.
As I’d walked up Park Ave South to Grand Central, I’d stolen a few glances at the mobile site. Sabathia was showing cracks. The Tigers were hitting him. They’d plated a few. The Yankees, meanwhile, continued their trend of avoiding bases like they were laden with poison.
The man too was curious about the game, and had his smartphone out. He too disliked the Yankees, and gave us joyful updates: 4-0 Tigers. 5-o!. 6-0!!
See, watching baseball, even when it’s just words and blips and squares on a smartphone screen, is a communal experience–even on a train, with strangers.
Our lady friend was, alas, a Yankees fan.
We discussed Pedro Martinez in his prime, and his love of gardening. We discussed restaurants–the man was invited to try Tarry Lodge in Port Chester with his former assistant, and the woman said Batali’s joint was marvelous. We dissected what the heck made the pasta at Babbo so unreal, and how best to tackle the parking matter when dining at that 42 place atop the Ritz-Carlton in WP.
I gradually put my unread Times sections–Sports, last Sunday’s Arts & Leisure–away.
The conversation continued, as did the Yankees updates–they were no hit until we wended through Bronkers–until White Plains, when the man bid us adieu and departed.
I slipped out of the judge’s bench–verdit Not Guilty–and assumed his seat.
The woman and I discussed our kids and having Martha Stewart as a neighbor (her, not me) and other sundry topics.
As we docked at Hawthorne, the punchless pinstripers were down by about a million, their season essentially over. I said good bye to my new friend, exited the train, and threw the unread sections of the paper away.
Because a good convo is almost always better than a good read.