The Q train came to a halting stop. An announcement immediately came on asking “Who pulled the emergency cord?” At the end of our car, a good citizen thinking there was a request to pull the cord, got up from her seat, pulled the cord, even as the train stood idle. She sat back down returning to her book. A hardcover, old school, though she looked barely 25.
I was slightly annoyed to have my short trip home delayed. We were in-between the Union Square and 34thStreet stops. The tunnel between the stops is a mile of tracks and darkness. The lights were on in the train. As I looked around I saw eyes meeting strangers’ eyes, a rare occurrence in the subway. Seated neighbors started to talk. I remained quiet, looking to see if anyone was panicking. Surprisingly, everyone was in a good mood and remained calm. Perhaps that had more to do with it being 9:30 pm on a Friday night, the start of a three-day weekend.
A seasoned older gentleman, well, probably no older than me, was reassuring a group of tourists that he had been through this before and we’d get through this. Others mentioned this had never happened to them before. Personally, I couldn’t remember a time the emergency brake was pulled on a train. I’d been delayed in my 42 years traveling underground, but this was new for me.
I looked to see that my phone battery was full, settling in to read downloaded articles. I barely finished the first short read when an announcement proclaimed we would be starting shortly. I assumed the vague phrase meant something different to the crew than to us passengers. However, within three minutes, around fifteen minutes in total, we were again on our way.
It was a meaningful quarter hour. Strangers supported one another. Everyone remained composed, and we all clapped when the train moved forward. Rather than ruining a terrific evening, it elevated my night, giving me hope. Witnessing this sliver of kindness and respect reassured me in a city that is known by many as dangerous and cold. Given the opportunity my subway car-mates chose kindheartedness.
- Offer assistance. Sometimes we see someone struggling, and if we open a door, help them cross the street, or give of ourselves in way that is not a hardship, we feel uplifted. We get when we give.
- Practice calming habits, whether it’s a breathing exercise or tensing & relieving muscles, having a tool in a potentially stressful situation will be invaluable when that tension-filled time comes.
- When in a public place, people watch. See if you can observe an act of kindness or a moment of care. You, too, may find it reassuring.