Thursday, May 08, 2008

Smokey Gets the Finger

This morning on the bus this guy I see pretty much every day but had never spoken to asked me if I'd had a needle injury. It took me a second to figure out he was talking about my finger, because that would have to be one helluva needle. And then I connected it to the stitching because I had been thinking, does he think I shoot heroin? mistaking myself for Amy Winehouse again, before I remembered I used to stitch on my commute.

"Kitchen accident."
{Grimaces}"You've had to give up knitting?"
"Yes." {But knitting, dude, that's two needles.}
"What did you do?"
"You know the mandoline slicer?"
"Did you have to get stitches?"
"Skin graft."

That was all, but it started me thinking because I haven't been to the library yet and I'm still staring out the window on my commute. I know, for instance, that the guy who talked to me for the first time today always carries his Starbuck's traveling mug and stops to have a cigarette on the El platform because apparently being on the bus for 20 minutes is too long to go without a smoke. So why did I think that he hadn't ever noticed me?

The dude and I have little life stories we've pieced together for some of our commuting characters, but what stories do they tell themselves about us? What does fastwalker call me? Slow poke? Fastwalker lives somewhere up the street from us and has an adolescent girl--I know because of the books she reads in between the pleasure books, all from the library.

What stories does the 112 driver tell himself? He did ask once because I'd raced onto the bus before the light turned. And before he drove away he leaned forward to look down the street behind me. Where was the dude? So he knows we're a pair, but what does he think when one or the other of us is missing? What stories do we inspire others to make up about us?

{Helen told me one once. When I'd had the bunion surgery and gained 20 pounds overnight, the word at the bus stop was we were going to hear the pitter patter of little feet. These feet were allegedly going to come out of my vagina attached to a baby. I didn't like that story; it was scary.}

What is it that people think when they see me lean over to the dude between 40th and 34th and give him a small peck on the cheek and whisper in his ear. {I say the same thing every day, but I'm not telling.}

What is it about the way we live our lives--we, all of us--that we keep so many of our stories* to ourselves? {You know, until we blog them.}

*You know what story I'm getting tired of? The kitchen accident. And there's at least another month of bandage wearing. I'll just have to remember the lesson I learned while I was teaching: just because I've said it a million times, doesn't mean it's not new to them...


XmaryX said...

That must have been my BF! He always calls my stitching "knitting", although for some unknown reason it turned into "crocheting" today. He jokes that my dog calls him on the phone on Thursdays (stitching night with the girls) and tries to convince him to come visit and feed her marshmallows and/or McD's hamburglers "because Mommy is too busy knitting my outfit tonight to pay any attention to me!"
I never thought about if people noticed me doing my regular routine, like walking the dog after work, and if they thought up stories about me.
Thanks- now I'm paranoid on top of OCD!
Glad you're getting better.

Barbeeque4 said...

I ride the underground and then switch to a bus and have a ton of back stories for the people that I see everyday and we never speak - I often wonder what they have made up about me?????? With my backpack covered in dozens of pin-back pins..I wonder what is thought of them... I guess I will have to wonder?

C in DC said...

Working in a suburban location, I drive to work, but we have the same phenomena in our cafeteria. My lunch group has comments on a bunch of our more colorful colleagues. Some of them have "names": Sweater man, Rabbit (eats lots of lettuce), Question guy, etc.

What's interesting is when you finally meet and get to know one of these characters, because they go from being a one-dimensional story to a three-dimensional person.

Barbara said...

We have it here with dogwalking. We have little stories for the other dog walkers (who we usually identify by their dogs and/or one major character trait, like Grumpy Cocker Spaniel Man). I know they recognize me by my dog but it still takes me totally by surprise when one of these "total strangers" actually speaks to me. LOL.

Michelle said...

I love this post. I often think that no one notices me, or makes up stories about me...although I am always noticing other people. I met a girl at the gym the other night and I so wanted to tell her that I loved the shoes she had on on Monday. But, then I feel like I might be seen as scary stalker girl.