The Art of Dance and Subway Etiquette

We talk about the world as it should be, but I never liked that word ‘should’. Should is restless…I should be doing something else right now. I should be doing better.

Should is a lazy ‘can’, a poor man’s ‘will’.

But yesterday, I changed my mind about ‘should’ when I witnessed something amazing on the subway.

I was on my way back from work, rush hour, and as I usually do, I took the A-train express. From 59th to 125th, there are no stops…by my watch, 4 ½ minutes of uninterrupted ride.

It being rush hour, the car was packed. But in jumps this man (and fashion your own image of him if you will, I decline to describe him). What I will say was that he had absolutely no beat.

His iPod was on full blast and we could see that he was in the zone.  And I’m telling you, he was movin’ it. I’m not talking about subtle head bobs here. I’m talking about kicks, pop-and-lockin’, figger waggin’, moon-walkin’, all spins and smiles. What set him apart from other uninhibited subway exhibitionists was that this man had his eyes wide open. In other words, he wasn’t in his own world, but very aware that our world had space for his MJ crotch grabs.

Yes, we made space. Rush hour or not, we formed a 7-foot radius around the man. No one would go near him. I noted with irony that NY subway etiquette was in full effect. Though everyone saw him, no one officially acknowledged him. There was a young lady in front of me though who was obviously amused. She would sneak peeks out of the corner of her eye and would laugh whenever the man did something especially superfunky.

I couldn’t help but smile either. This autistic savant, through his sheer grit and persistence, won me over. When I looked around, I saw everyone else smiling too. I noted with surprise that for the first time in an NY subway, there it was: community.

What can I say? I was inspired, man!. I took off my coat, bumped Madcon’s “Beggin’” and began to dance next to the man. I imagine it was quite the scene. The last thing you expect to see is a buttoned-down Asian guy in a suit free-wheeling it in a crowded subway car. I couldn’t bring myself to actually open my eyes though. With my eyes closed, I imagine that my dancing was a little bit like Justin Timberlake and a lot like Ellen Degeneres.

When I opened my eyes, expecting the worst, I saw something truly amazing. Everyone who was smiling in their seat was up dancing with us. Community had finally shed its light on the dimmest of our human condition, the underground, where people devolve into anti-social creatures of privacy, where bodies pressed together couldn’t be further apart. On the A-train express from 59th to 125th, during the peak of rush hour, people were dancing to their own beats, but dancing together, nonetheless.

Of course, this story is a complete fabrication. Almost none of it actually happened. The only true thing, in fact, was the dancing man. But he danced alone. And I should mention that people got a good laugh at his expense.

We talk so much about the world and how it should be.

Know this. The world would be a better place if it was a subway car full of dancing savants.

At least, that’s the way it should be.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Art of Dance and Subway Etiquette

  1. Elisabeth

    next time, you should dance. Can’t have a car full with just one man dancin

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