Appearances count. We all want to look hip and smart, even if we're not. I could care less who I might impress on the subway (especially now that I'm married) but there is still a part of me that cares, if only for a moment.
When I was younger, I did want to impress other subway riders. Who doesn't have the fantasy of being accosted by a cute rider with the greeting of, "Oh, I love that book you're reading. You want to go get a drink and talk about it?"
When I first moved to New York, I was taking the subway and there was a cute woman across the train who kept looking at me and checking me out. I USED to be quite a catch, or so Sujan laments. It was a crowded train. I was reading a book. I kept
looking at her too. But neither one of us was willing to take the step of talking to each other. The standing straphangers were in our way for much of the ride. In Brooklyn, the train cleared out a little and we were finally able to see each other without people in the way.
I'm convinced that when she saw I was reading "Bums", a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, she was visibly annoyed and lost interest. She didn't look at me again. What if I had been reading a hipper book? Would she have talked to me? Did I lose my chance at a drink with a beautiful woman because I wasn't reading McSweeney's or something.
Last week, I stepped on a train to head into Manhattan. I was just about to start "Foul Ball" by Jim Bouton. I thought to myself, "How uncool will I look reading this on the train?" For a moment, I was 24 again and feeling the need to look smart and in the
know. Then I realized that I didn't care. Who was I trying to impress?
So I sat down and before I could even start reading the book, a 65 year old man entered the train and promptly sat down next to me. He made a point of leaning over to see what book I was reading. He immediately started talking to me about baseball. He saw what I was reading and was impressed. But he didn't want to talk about Jim Bouton or the book. He just wanted to talk some baseball. "Young man, do you know what pitcher has the most hits in one game? He had five."
I guessed, "Jim Bouton" Duh, what an idiot.
He said, "No, it was Mel Stottlemyre with the Yankees. How about this one? How many strikeouts can a pitcher have in one inning?"
I said, "Well, he could have an infinite amount of strikeouts if the catcher keeps dropping the 3rd strike and the hitter makes it to first each time."
"Correct. Very good. Many pitchers have had four in an inning. Tell me, has any pitcher had five?" He sat back and smiled. He was beaming.
I said that I didn't think so and he said he didn't think so either. He said, "Wouldn't it be great if a catcher kept dropping the third strike just so a pitcher could do it?" He laughed. I laughed.
He was in control of the conversation. I was willing to keep responding to his questions. We sat in silence for a moment. I didn't know what to say. After two short stops, he got off the train. Where was he going? Home? To another subway car to enlighten other baseball fans ignorant of his knowledge. Who knows? But I do know that HE would have been impressed with my choice of "Bums" as subway reading material.
4 days ago