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Subway friends - Month 1!

So I’ve been meaning to blog my experience more about how this project has been going. Gently nudged by some gracious tweeters, I’ve decided to finally start :) 

This first month has been interesting. It’s always difficult to get conversations started but once you start, well, lets just say I’m getting a lot better at talking to strangers! 

I’ve had two major revelations 

1.) If I’m going to do this, I need to brush up on my languages — god bless New York’s immigrant diversity.

2.) Most people welcome conversation — even if they may appear grumpy at first.

I should probably blog each encounter but for the first go around, I’m doing a summary here. (caveat, I am still getting used to this and so have not been fully able to meet one person every day — that is also in part because as the weather has been getting better, I’ve started to ride my bike more, lowering the number of opportunities for encounters!) So far I’ve met: 

  • A high school administrator who lives in Brooklyn Heights: we talked about the crazy internal politics w/in teaching
  • An art teacher at a hybrid school in mid-town: we talked about his class and how art classes are getting cut
  • A retired man from Jamaica: we talked about the clubs he used to go to in the area (he lives in queens now but still visits brooklyn frequently) 
  • A woman from shanghai: she works at a store in the bowery selling appliances like TVs (this one made me realize I had to brush up on my Chinese so the convo was a short one!) 
  • A woman visiting from Quebec: she works in retail and was looking for interesting clothes and shoes to retail back in Canada (this one made me realize I need to brush up on my french) 
  • A man who works in construction but is studying to be a real estate broker: he was studying for the exam on the train when we talked
  • An architect who works in the financial district
  • A man who does ad-buying for the Discovery channel
  • A man from Panama: he did not think it was hot out compared to what he’s used to
  • A depute from the south Florida police: we talked about the drug problem in Fl (apparently there’s a lot of week coming in and most of the kids are on prescription drugs). It was his first time back to New York in 23 years. He’s 2years from retiring!
  • A man from Bedstuy going to hang out with his friends in Union Square on a Friday night (I asked him for good places to host the next meeting in the area!)
  • A lovely Swedish musician out to make it in New York
  • A lovely woman who commented my friend on his bag when she noticed they were matching TED bags (she asked if that was a conference). 

I’ve invited all these people to hang out on May 29th (tomorrow) in Union Square by the Ghandi statue around 3:00 pm. This will be the first official meeting so we’ll see how it goes! (After this first run, I’ve decided I think I need some way to get in touch with everyone to remind them about the get together at the end of the month as I have a suspicion that those I met closer to the beginning of the month will remember — any suggestions would be welcome (and if you’d like to join, feel free as well as that’s about as random as meeting you on the subway anyway! :) 

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About Subway Friends

This is a little project I started because I love people. What I hate is seeing people wait around on mass transit, staring down tunnels, avoiding eye contact for 30 minute rides, wishing their time away, to get from point A to B and not reveling in the journey.

In addition, while New York City is one of the most diverse places in America, we rarely leave our bubbles and interact with people very different from us. Yet most of us take mass transit daily, which offers a total mixing pot of people, cultures, stories, backgrounds and journeys. 

Subway friends is a personal project to connect with the amazing variety of people in New York and to make mass transit more human, social and definitely more interesting.

How it works:

  • I will meet at least one new person each day on public transit - whoever’s sitting next to me.
  • I’ll then hand them a card, inviting each person to a party at the end of the month. 
  • Everyone at the party will be completely random, just like an average subway car; except that they have all become my Subway Friends :) 

It’s an experiment in social objects, breaking down barriers, and getting a better first-hand understanding of the humanity I hear so much about in the papers.

Who knows what’s to come, but I hope I run into you soon!