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|Uno-fication on a New York City Subway|
Oct. 30th, 2006 at 8:26 am
Friday morning I walked onto a subway going from 42nd street to 14th Street (Union Square).
As I stepped through the doorway and took my spot, I saw a tall African-American kid grimace a little bit. I realized that I was standing between him and one of his buddies and probably interfering with a conversation.
While the gist of my assumption was correct, it was a little more serious than that. He and two of his friends were playing a game of UNO. He was the dealer and also in charge of holding the main card stack. So I was standing in the way of the card flow. The problem was only momentary. He and his friends adjusted their stances slightly and continued on with their game.
Amused by their ability to play this beloved game even on the subway, and not having anything better to do at the moment, I and other passengers watched them play.
Then they finished and asked me if I wanted to “join in.”
“Sure” I said, telling them that I’d play as long as I could, as I would be getting off the train at the next stop. That didn’t seem to matter and they handed me seven cards. Another bystander, a white man wearing a business suit and tie, was also invited to “join in.” He smiled, nodded yes, and received his seven cards.
So the five of us played a game of UNO. It has been years since I played this game and I was catching up a little with the rules. While I absorbed the fact that “draw two” cards were stacking up in my direction, I felt a genuine thrill at the feeling of instantaneous camaraderie between strangers. It didn’t matter that we looked different, dressed differently, were of different ages or that we hadn’t even exchanged names. Our schedules and the train just happened to throw us together and we were still having a great time.
These sorts of spontaneous positive experiences with strangers are a major reason why I love New York City so much. They happen constantly. Despite New York City’s tough and competitive reputation, so many New Yorkers have a come-what-may easy-going friendliness accompanied by a readiness to spontaneously “join in”, help out or just gab about whatever is going on in the news. A person might glance at you for a second, size you up for a moment, and then before even introductions are made you’re a part of the group.