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Literary Ramblings and Thoughts, Other Musings, Why Not?

Monday Musings and Motivations — Part Eight — Chance Encounters

Yesterday I went into the city to meet with my phenomenal writing group.  The six of us met by chance; we happened to sign up for the same writing class last fall/winter and when the class ended, we decided to keep meeting.  You know when you meet some people that you just gel with?  It’s like that.

This meeting was bittersweet because one of our members is moving to Tokyo in two weeks.  We shared our writing as always but we talked alot about other stuff too. This group is good people and I value their opinions when it comes to my writing.

We’ve all had those chance encounters with people who open us up to new experiences and touch our lives in different ways.

Waiting for the 1:45 Train

If you haven’t been to Penn Station, well, let’s just say it’s not the greatest place to hang out and wait.  I love Manhattan, but their station needs to be given a new coat of paint, spruced up — something.  I’ve been to many train stations and this one pales in comparison to many.

You enter into it by going down many, many stairs.  From the street it looks like a big, black mouth and you enter that mouth and go into the bowels of Manhattan.  You get my drift?  I’ve never seen anyone urinate at Penn Station, but someone must and on a pretty regular basis because I’ve never been there without catching a strong whiff of urine at some point.

There’s always musicians (some great, some not so much) playing a guitar, harmonica, violin, portable piano, horn — any and all musical instruments in all sorts of genres playing music.  That part is way cool.

It’s like a maze in there, signs everywhere, people rushing here, there and it’s confusing.  No matter how many times I’ve gone in, and I’ve gone in plenty, I can get turned around.  It’s a crazy hodgepodge of signs, sounds, sights and smells.  That’s part of its musty, dusty, pee-smelling charm though.  And the lighting?  Think yellowish sallow — and there’s no windows anywhere.  Only two bathrooms in the entire place and only one waiting area with seats.

Anyway, I got my coffee and was lucky enough to find a seat by an older diminutive Asian lady who was impeccably dressed.  There was a seat open to my right.  I opened my book to settle in and read for awhile when a elderly man of color limped over to that seat and sat down.

He had a gentleman’s hat and shoes on, the kind of shoes that had circles and impressions on the leather and they were tied neatly.  He wore thick brown khaki pants, an olive drab tee-shirt that looked as if he’s spilled something on it and he carried a cane.  A beautiful reddish-brown wooden cane that looked hand-carved, shiny, varnished.

“Woo!” he said when he sat down.  He leaned the cane against his leg and had a plastic cup filled with water in his other hand.

“Hello, Brigitte.”

“How did you know my name?” I looked at him, not trusting.

“Your cup,” he said and pointing at it.  “It’s got your name on it, you must be pretty special for someone to write your name on a cup.”  He smiled at me.  I didn’t say anything, just smiled back.

“Where you from?  Tennessee?  Down Memphis way?

“How did you know that?  I got a strange feeling.  How did he know?

“I got an observant ear.”  He tapped his ear with his finger when he said it.  “I can tell most times where anyone’s from by just listenin’.”

I looked at him, he smiled and I asked him where he was from.

“Virginia, I miss it.”  He then went on to tell me he’d had to move here to work at a job driving a truck.  He rambled on about this and that, telling me that the city was too big for him.  How people don’t have any morals.  How the homeless yell and scream in the streets — how it doesn’t make any sense to him.  What his brother did for a living.  How he wanted to get back home.  How we were so lucky, that at any time, anything could happen.  I agreed yes, we are lucky.

He didn’t smell of alcohol or look deranged.  He just seemed like a nice man who wanted to talk.

I mostly just said no sir, yes sir, umm, that’s right.  Small acknowledgements that I was listening and interested in what he had to say.  It was as if he hadn’t used his voice in awhile and he wanted to just talk, talk, talk.  Maybe he was one of those people under the radar and it was nice to be listened to, to be noticed.

He got silent after awhile and I looked up at the board and noticed my train was about to leave.  I got up and said to him, “It’s been nice talking to you sir.  I hope you get back home.”

He didn’t say anything.  I looked back at him and his chin was resting on his chest and he was sleeping.

I thought about him all the way home and hoped that maybe our chance encounter would make a difference for him — if only for a little awhile.  It made a difference to me.

Those chance encounters; sometimes they are truly the best kind there is.

~ ~ ~

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter, and notice what happens. – Wayne Dyer

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. – John Milton

~ ~ ~

Have a wonderful Monday and press play below for a nice song to start your week on a good note.

About Brigitte



39 thoughts on “Monday Musings and Motivations — Part Eight — Chance Encounters

  1. What I a wonderful gift you gave*:) just to listen*:)

    Posted by Carr Party of Five | June 4, 2012, 11:17 am
  2. This is so true. I just met a family here in Singapore who couldn’t figure out the bus system and they had asked my dad. Turned out they were going to the same place we were. Originally from India, lived in Houston and visiting in Singapore. They had a little boy, 4 yrs old in a spiderman shirt who was crazy swinging around the bus! Adorable. Just when I had given up: I was literally thinking about 10 min before that people aren’t nice on a whole, not in person anyway. they all seem to want something from you! But here is this family who is generally nice and wouldn’t even take the money we tried to give him to make his life easier (buses only take change here if you don’t have a card). It wasn’t a long encounter, but it seriously boosted my hope in people.

    Lovely post! “Those chance encounters; sometimes they are truly the best kind there is.” – amen my friend!

    Posted by Emi | June 4, 2012, 11:18 am
  3. These are the kinds of New York stories I live for. Conversations with random strangers that you would ordinarily never get to know. I bet he’s glad he had the opportunity to have a nice chat with you. And he’s obviously got an impressive ear for accents!

    I loved this story, Brigitte. You describe Penn Station in all its pee-scented charm perfectly, and I can hear the guy talking just from your dialogue!

    Posted by Madame Weebles | June 4, 2012, 11:28 am
    • Aw, thanks MW. You are so right about NYC; there are so many interesting people and I’ve had many nice encounters from people from all walks of life. It was very strange how he knew from listening to me talk for just a few sentences….but in a good way. Glad you enjoyed and have a great Monday.

      Posted by Brigitte | June 4, 2012, 11:33 am
  4. I didn’t know you were from Memphis! I am too! Whenever I stumble across a Memphis expat like me I get all excited. I am really resisting the urge to ask you where you went to high school.

    Posted by The Waiting | June 4, 2012, 11:39 am
    • Oh my, it’s such a small world. I didn’t go to school in Memphis – lived in a very small town growing up, but that’s where my stomping ground and peeps are now and I lived there for many years. Love the city. It’s underrated and many don’t know just how cool it can be.

      Welcome, fellow Memphian!!!!! :).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 4, 2012, 11:44 am
  5. Good for you for listening to him. All too often, I am caught up in my own introverted ways, earphones in place, tuning everything else out. And missing out on exchanges like this. I shall try to do better next time and will think of you as my motivation. 🙂

    Posted by crubin | June 4, 2012, 12:21 pm
  6. This post made me miss home so much. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations I’ve had waiting for the trains at Penn. New York is one of the few places in the world where you can have out of the blue conversations that leave you thinking for days. Or you know, leave you thinking about the fedora wearing, tuxedo-donning pimp who counted his wads of money out loud and then got up to urinate in between the cars of a moving E train. That happens too.

    I find that, for all the trash talk people give New Yorkers, I do genuinely think we’re more open than most to idle chit-chat with strangers. I’m so glad you gave an obviously observant man a chance to be observed for once!

    Posted by Totally Knew That... | June 4, 2012, 12:43 pm
    • Hi Nicole! So glad you enjoyed the post and you’re right. You can have the most fun just watching people, listening and even the people you’re talking about just give it a funky flair. New Yorkers get a bad rap; they honest, straightforward and in my experience are ALWAYS helpful if one gets lost or just wants to find something. I LIKE straightforward; you always know where you stand. Thank you for your nice comment. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | June 4, 2012, 1:01 pm
  7. Eons ago, before I lived in NYC, I was commuting in to work early one summer morning. It was hot, I was harried, and Penn Station wasn’t nearly as cleaned up as it is now! Standing in the middle of the station was a homeless man who seemed to be held up by a pair of pants that had petrified from lack of laundering. He was trying to attract someone’s, anyone’s attention. I saw him and quickly averted my gaze as I hurried past him…too late…”Will you marry me?” He asked, with a mischievous smile on his lips and humor glinting from his eyes. Caught by surprise, and ever so polite, “I’ll have to think about that,” I tossed over my shoulder as I continued past him. He laughed, I laughed, and that shared laugh still resonates in the recesses of my memory, decades later. At the time, I thought he’d made my day…it turns out he’s made many of my days! We never know what treasures chance encounters hold!

    Posted by Margarita | June 4, 2012, 1:11 pm
  8. I thought about him all the way home and hoped that maybe our chance encounter would make a difference for him — if only for a little awhile. It made a difference to me.

    Those chance encounters; sometimes they are truly the best kind there is.

    We all have to be mindful of this.. and kudos for you to keep it in perspective. We can all learn from this post. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Posted by unfetteredbs | June 4, 2012, 3:22 pm
  9. I had a wonderful encounter with a man once on a train from Vermont down to New York (Penn Station, to be exact). It was very similar, a much older man who just seemed to want to talk. This was 14 years ago now, and I’ve never forgotten him or the things he talked about.

    Posted by Kathy V. | June 4, 2012, 6:47 pm
    • I know. It’s those conversations that just stick with you and make you remember how great you have it. “One little turn of the rudder”…the great Rebecca Harding Davis one said… but thank you for sharing that and for getting it, the message I was trying to convey. Great minds, huh? 🙂

      Posted by Brigitte | June 4, 2012, 7:02 pm
  10. Brigitte — In the end it seems it was a good thing that you missed your train yesterday! I feel the same way about the people in our group and I’m so happy we all met. I also love those chance encounters that you speak of–some that result in lasting friendships, others that simply pass a little time while we’re awaiting a train. All leave an impression, like little gifts along the journey, and your post is a great reminder to be receptive to them when they appear.

    Posted by Carly Anderson | June 4, 2012, 7:14 pm
  11. Brigitte– It seems it was a good thing that you missed your train yesterday! I feel the same way about the people in our group and I’m so happy that we all met. I also love those chance encounters that you speak of — some that result in lasting friendships, others that simply pass the time while awaiting a train. All leave an impression, like little gifts along the journey, and your post is a reminder of how important it is to be receptive to them when they appear. Thank you! 🙂

    Posted by sunstreakedsky | June 4, 2012, 7:23 pm
    • Carly, thanks so much for responding. I’m so glad when one of my peeps from my writing group takes the time to acknowledge what i have to say. I’m glad too, despite the fact I had to wait almost an hour for my train….I always find something to do and take notes to broaden my horizons and my writing. You never know what you can glean as a writer…I look forward to reading your novel..:)

      Posted by Brigitte | June 4, 2012, 8:23 pm
  12. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “Always be kind to strangers, for many have in this way, entertained angels unaware.”

    Posted by dianasschwenk | June 4, 2012, 7:24 pm
  13. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give anyone is simply to listen. I seem to have an approachable look because when I travel alone, people will strike up conversations with me. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t. But other times I leave thinking that I may have brightened their day, just a bit. And they’ve often brightened mine.

    Posted by jmmcdowell | June 4, 2012, 7:46 pm
  14. I really enjoyed reading this. What a cool moment and kudos to you for appreciating it for what it was.

    Posted by Simon | June 4, 2012, 10:35 pm
  15. Sometimes those sudden encounters with strangers change the course of your thought process.You are lucky enough to get a chance to be a good listener, coz otherwise, most of the time we indulge in talking more than listening 🙂

    Posted by shimmeshine | June 5, 2012, 12:51 am
  16. Nice story. Reminds me of a saying: be generous about who you invite to your dinner table, you might be inviting an angel. So true.

    Posted by the curtain raiser | June 5, 2012, 2:01 am
  17. Great story Brigitte. I met a young homeless man named Adam in Central Station, Sydney a couple of years ago. He asked me for some money which I gave to him. For some reason he managed to tug at the heartstrings. Like you, I couldn’t stop thinking about him for the rest of the day and into the night. I still think about him occasionally even now. Adam was the name I had picked out if any of my children had been boys. They weren’t. He was around the same age as my eldest daughter. Strange how some people can really affect you. 🙂

    Posted by floatingwiththebreeze | June 6, 2012, 9:49 am
  18. Loved this, Brigitte! I enjoy chatting with random people–there are so many interesting stories out there. I think it’s totally cool how he noticed your name and your accent–sounds like an interesting man!

    Posted by dayuntoday | June 7, 2012, 8:49 pm
  19. Sounds like you met an angel! Brigitte, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award:

    Posted by Silverfox | June 8, 2012, 12:02 am

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