He smiled at me and caught my eye as I stood a few minutes before the subway pulled into the Union Square station.
“Have you ever seen so many people not look at one another?”
“Ever live in a small town or a place where people talk to one another?” He continued, looking me in the eye.
“You don’t understand. This is how we create private space in a crowded city.”
“So it’s a defensive thing?”
“No, it’s a good thing. It’s just what we do.”
He was cute and his smile was wonderful, but he misread the calm detachment in the subway car as the loneliness of a hostile environment. Until the train approached my station, I’d been happily reading on my Kindle. The quiet car wasn’t crowded. It was a peaceful ride. What I saw as a refuge, he saw as a mean, hard place.
We come to every experience with the baggage that creates our point-of-view. I’ve seen a great deal of kindness and friendly interactions between strangers in New York and other large cities. I’ve also seen rude, crude, obnoxious behaviors. The trick is not to read too much into any single incident. If you draw quick conclusions based on limited data, you may as well conclude that the world is flat because it appears to end at the horizon.
I hope that when the man with the great smile goes home to his small town he remembers that I smiled back, engaged in a conversation, and offered him a differing opinion without anger.
Me? I’m going to think about how a character’s POV informs conclusions…. Lots to think about!