Monday, January 28, 2008


There are no words for those priceless life moments where you just wonder how people can be so strange and yet so completely oblivious to their strangeness. Today on my evening subway commute I was sitting reading my Time magazine, minding my own business, as any good New Yorker. Into the periphery of my existence, increasingly encroaching upon the centrality of my focus is a man singing. Let me expand upon that so you can more clearly understand the situation. This was not a homeless person or a mariachi band or some other subway performer trying to tug on our heartstrings and get us to pay them for their talents. No, this was a passenger. A young-ish (I say that because he had his back to me) black guy, probably 5'7", with a CD player. Oh yes, a Discman, they still exist.

And it's not like he was singing along to Sweet Home Alabama or Don't Stop Believin or something like that. Heck, even a Britney Spears song for that matter. Oh no, this was straight up R&B, soulful, heart-wrenching lyrical genius. It was all, "I've lost you and now I don't know how to find you, you're my only hope, my one true love, how could I have ever let you go" kind of awesomeness. And this dude was totally into it.

The icing on a very moist cake is that this dude was completely and utterly tone deaf. Flat as Keira Knightly's chest. It was half painful, half intriguing... you want to stop listening, but somehow you are just drawn in. So at first I tried to tune it out (no pun intended), but then I decided that I had to just glimpse around at my fellow non-singing passengers to see their reactions. That was the fatal mistake that put me over the edge. Their faces, much as my own, were kind of confused, kind of concerned, and clearly trying to hold back laughter.

I looked across the subway to the girl sitting there who, no lie, had TAKEN OUT HER IPOD EARBUDS because she heard this dude (who, by the way, was right by the subway doors, facing straight out, completely unawares to everyone else behind/around him) and was so in need of clarifying that yes, yes, this tone deaf man is in fact singing about his long lost love on the subway that she took out her own headphones to listen.

That was when I lost it. I was literally biting my tongue to not laugh out loud, tears streaming down my face from the effort, but when I saw this girl take out her headphones... oh, and her face... I just started laughing. Thankfully tone deaf man got out at the next stop and I was able to fully let out a deep hearty rolling laugh. Me and the 10 people within earshot of him. It was one of those priceless New York moments when you realize how truly anonymous the city is and where you just have to laugh. Because otherwise you would cry.

When my laughter had subsided and I had sufficiently gathered myself I glanced at the woman beside me (probably about my age) who said, "That right there is the next American Idol."

And that about sums it up.

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