This All-Baseball thing works pretty good sometimes ... call it the buddy system or the Motown of blogging, it's a good thing. Alex Belth is having technical troubles, so his post ends up here:
With spring officially one day away, the snow continues to fall in New York. The streets are too warm for it to stick, but there it is anyway: fat, heavy, wet snowflakes swirling through the sky. It's pretty snow, the kind that sticks to tree branches, but enough already. On my commute to work this morning, it was clear that many New Yorkers have just about had it with this winter. I encountered several grumpy people on my way to the office. I resisted the invitation to get into an argument with a gruff dude who made a comment to me on the platform at 231rst street. He was standing with his son and I wasn't in the mood to get into it, and humiliate the kid. He probably felt embarrassed enough as it was. On the train, I saw a couple of others muttering to themselves angrily.
But it wasn't all bad. There was some good, community vibes to be had as well. At 168th street, a guy sat down next to me and as I moved over slightly to make room for him we exchanged that quick nod of the head which is a universal sign between men that everything is cool. Or I'm OK, you're OK. It is a subtle gesture but one of the most important bits of communication that men share with one another. It is, if not about about acceptence, then at least a sense of recognition. It also makes you feel good. I remember being in elementary school looking at the older kids, wishing that one day I would be deemed cool enough to be worth a head-nod.
I rarely think twice about it now, but I do it all of the time. It is a reflex for most men, an unconscious act. I'm one of those guys who actually look at people in the eye when I pass them in the street or on the train or in the corridor at work. I find the best way to disarm someone is to look at them in the eye and say "hello" or simply just give a quick head nod. Sometimes people completely ignore me, but more often than not, they reciprocate. My feeling is that in order to feel connected to others in a big, often lonely place like New York, you have to spread the sense of community first before you get it back.
As it turns out, I had two head nod incidents on the train this morning. At one point in the ride, a young kid who couldn't have been older than twelve, was standing in front of me. He was a dead-ringer for the nerdy kid in the Bernie Mac show. His backpack was bigger than he was. I noticed that some money was poking out of the back pocket of his pants, so I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Yo kid, you better put that money away before you attract some unwanted attention." Groggily, he stuffed it deeper into his pants, and then turned to me and gave me the nod. No words, just the nod. What more do you need?
Later, when we reached the affluent stops on the Upper West Side, an attractive couple entered the train and stood not far away. The were both handsome and stylish, but not too pretty. They also looked like they just rolled out of bed. Standing next to a pole, they leaned against each other, speaking closely, occasionally pecking each other with kisses. But this was no egregious case of PDA (public display of affection). It was subtle and intimate. They talked about the coming day, and their plans for the evening. I couldn't really hear what they were saying, but I picked up enough to get a general idea of what was going on.
They kept my attention for a minute, and as I was spying on them, I wondered what their sex life was like. That's about when the guy looked up and caught me staring. It didn't fluster me. I smiled at him respectfully and nodded my head, as if to let him know that I appreciated what we had. A caring relationship. The affection they were showing was appealing. He instinctively understood this--instead of thinking I was leering at his woman--and nodded back.
Sometimes for us men, the nod, or the slap on the ass, says more than our words could ever hope to express.