icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Snapshots of Life in the City

How About a Side of Ice Cream with that Commute?

I took the escalators down to the subway at Foggy Bottom on a very hot day. It was early afternoon, not rush hour, and there was just a moderate number of people in the station.  
I was moving quickly to reach a particular area of the platform before the next train would arrive. Then I almost lost my step, almost stopped completely, when I saw a middle-aged, casually-dressed man sitting on a bench doing something I'd never seen before inside metro.
Now I must pause to say that open food containers are not allowed in the subway system but sometimes you'll see someone eating French fries or even a sandwich and usually they eat while somewhat secluded inside a train car.
But this guy had two large containers positioned close to him on the bench and he held one big spoon. One container was clear plastic and inside was a "piece" of chocolate cake with chocolate icing and this "piece" was about as large as half of an entire cake. The other container was a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream, not a pint or a quart. No, it was an enormous half of a gallon.
With gusto, he would scoop out a bite of cake and eat it and then scoop out a substantial portion of ice cream and eat that next.  And this process was repeated at a rather quick pace.
Maybe he was hungry. Or maybe he didn't want the ice cream to melt!
He seemed in his own world. Oblivious.  Happy.
I couldn't imagine making a spectacle of myself that way and yet no one on the platform seemed to express any surprise. I tried to not react either, although I did surreptitiously watch him devour his food as I walked along.
Once I got over my initial suprise at seeing this scene, I was almost in awe.
It's not that I'd want to eat enormous amounts of food like that, and especially not inside a dirty metro station. And I wouldn't want to contribute to the vermin problem in the bowels of metro by dropping any scraps of food. 
But it must be nice to just do really weird things in public and not care what anyone else thinks.
In any case, it's entertaining to witness scenes like this. It certainly gave me something to think about on my ride home.

Be the first to comment

An Almost Invisible Act of Kindness

Early morning, as the sun was coming up, I ventured out on the street to meet a friend for breakfast. I was particularly vigilant about my surroundings as so few people were out and about that early on a Sunday.
Two policemen were slowly walking down the street ahead of me, which I found reassuring, and I fell in step behind them. Then one of them stepped into Dunkin' but he very quickly re-emerged on the street, holding a small white bag, presumably with donuts.


How cliche', I thought, cops and donuts!
Near the entrance to Dunkin', a man with unkempt hair was sitting in a beat-up wheelchair, wearing a dirty tee shirt and shorts. He had one leg elevated but both feet were uncovered, exposing thick callouses or some condition that turned his skin an unnatural, pasty color. 
The cop with the bag walked over to the man in the wheelchair and handed it to him. The man lit up as if it were the best day of his life. I couldn't make out what the man said to the cop but the cop simply nodded to him and then he fell into stride with his partner as they continued walking down the street.
I passed the man in the wheelchair as he was looking into the bag, his whole body shaking with joy. I wanted to join him in some way, become more a part of this story, but it was his moment and so I walked on silently to the subway entrance.
There were few people on the platform and I entered a car with no more than half a dozen people traveling, all looking down at their phones or dozing. For the entire trip, I could only think of what I had just witnessed. It was such a small act of kindness, basically invisible to the city at large.
One human being making a small, kind gesture to another turned out to be the best part of my day. And surely the few of us who witnessed or participated in this moment moved on with our lives, knowing something good had happened that morning.

Be the first to comment

It Doesn't Take a Lot of Ducks to Cause Excitement



The National Gallery of Art has an outdoor sculpture garden that is beautiful this time of year. Amid the lush greenery, with trees full of active and noisy birds, are unusual and engaging modern sculptures positioned thoughtfully about the grounds.


But, for me, the focus of the sculpture garden is the large pool of water with eight active fountains that rise and fall to three different heights on a set schedule to a kind of unheard musical score. Surrounding this pool are cement benches encouraging visitors to take a breather.

Many locals, tourists, and day workers sit there to read, eat lunch, meditate or people watch. While birds fly in and out for a drink or bath, excitement rises when a duck appears.

Now there are many other places in the metro area where you can go to see a whole lot of waterfowl, but we who visit to the sculpture garden get excited to see just one duck.

On one particular day, there was a mama duck gliding on the water with six small baby ducks following her.

People were delighted!


The water glistened, the weather was perfect, and there was this little show in front of us all.

I watched the people who watched the ducks almost as much as I watched the duck and her offspring!

I sat back on one of the cement benches enjoying the scene. But then…

"There are only four babies! Where are the others?" Someone exclaimed.

I looked up and sure enough, the mama duck now only had four ducklings following her, although she sort of paused and was looking steadfastly in one direction.

"Look! Two of the babies fell into this edge area and they can't get out!"

"What should we do, lift them out?"

"Maybe the mother will reject them if we touch them!"

The mother duck began quacking in the direction of those unfortunate two babies. I stood up and walked over to get a better view although it wasn't easy because everyone had the same idea.

One duckling could almost make it out of the trap and kept trying, but the other just flailed around randomly. The mother couldn't get any closer – probably because of the number of humans hovering over her babies.

"I think we should all back away and see if she helps them," I said.

But people didn't move. In fact, more gathered.

"Let's call the security guard and see what he says!" And a woman ran off to bring one of the guards over.

I decided to leave right then. I'm not sure why I didn't stay to get the conclusion to the story but it was clear to me that the guard must have seen this kind of thing before, many times in fact, and so maybe with his help, the ducklings could swim again as six, and not four. But surely eventually the tide would push a few unfortunate baby ducks again into the drop-off edge of the pond.

The story might never end.

So I left.

But I returned two days later and saw an adult male and an adult female duck swimming. No sign of any babies.

Was this even the same mama duck from the day before? Whether or not it was, where did those babies go? Surely they couldn't fly on their own yet.

But the crowd of people sitting around the pond was at peace, oblivious to the drama of two days prior. Some read their books, some ate, some just watched other people coming and going. And the reliable, strictly programmed fountains released water at various heights every few minutes.

All was normal and calm.

Be the first to comment