Monday, October 25, 2010

An Ode to the Crazy Man on the Metro

One of the beauties of living in the Big City is all the colorful people who converge in one place. Tonight, I'd like to give a little shoutout to one of those interesting people I encountered on my way home from Philadelphia.
Me and Bess got split up on the return journey, so I rode the metro on a Saturday night from Union Station to my home metro stop. To be fair, so did Bess. On Bess' solo ride, she found a fellow Tennessean who went to high school with our old roommate, Heather. If I learned nothing else on this trip, I discovered that the inner joy of Bess' heart draws strangers to her, like a moth to a flame. These strangers are invariably charming, asking her to take their picture for them or complimenting her on her outfit.
My strangers are nearly never charming or complimentary. They are usually scary or crazy or both. I have to wonder- what kind of different vibes am I putting out into the universe?
Par exemple, as I rode home, I noticed a man with an abundance of odd bages and purses around him. He was in mismatching clothing and sat hunched over in his seat. I felt for him- he clearly was disoriented and seemed to be trying to refocus on something in his hand. That's when I realized that the thing in his hand was a tiny little notebook that he was frantically scribbling into in small even lines. For the record, any time you see someone doing this, you should go ahead and scoot away. There's nothing good that comes of tiny notebook keeping (see "Conspiracy Theory" for further evidence). And when he started referring to other, already filled tiny notebooks, I started inching away.
I had not made it far when he shoved the notebooks into an old purse and made direct eye contact with the guy next to me. Cocking his head to the side, he queried, "I speak Russian- do you speak Russian?" The man confessed that he did not. He turned to me and repeated, "I speak Russian- do you speak Russian?" I shook my head no. He continued with this question to everyone in our car, repeating it as many times as was necessary to get a response. The question was asked with such gusto and earnest interest, it reminded me of a 5 year old asking you if he can show you his new trainset. It was ascertained that no one in our car spoke Russian, so he sat back down until we got to the station. One might infer that he spoke no further English- however, the question was asked in a fake Slavic accent that was highly reminescent of Boris and Natasha, of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" fame. So I felt a limited amount of pity- should a Russian speaker have been located, I am not sure that the conversation would have continued for very long.
Anyways, he continued his search once we got to the next platform, and nary a Russian was found. Once I realized that he was crazy but not scary, I felt a bemused affection for him. He was a lot less depressing than many of the homeless people I see around the city, because he was happy. He had his notebooks and his quest, and he wasn't worried about finding anything else. I mean, I'm sure he was- I'm sure he thinks about getting food and somewhere warm to stay and maybe where he'll get drugs. But for that moment, he didn't seem to be thinking about any of that.
So here's to you, sir. I hope that you found your Russian speaking friend and rode off into the sunset a happy man.

1 comment:

  1. I've run into this guy too, but I happen to speak a very small bit of Russian. I can confirm that he does, in fact, speak Russian and I agree with you that the man is crazy, albeit harmless. I was only able to communicate "Yes, but only a little bit," and I didn't understand what Question #2 was... because it was in Russian.

    Perhaps it was "Do you speak English?".

    I've seen him on multiple occasions, with his craziest stunt being a time where he stood at a metro exit and asked exiting passengers "Do you speak Russian?" as they were literally dodging him.