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  • Writer's pictureAusten Hayes

Dose #29: A Woman's Way - Tend and Befriend

"I meet people and they become chapters in my stories."

More from life on a commuter train...

The announcement came as we pulled into the White Plains station..."Due to a person on the track in Scarsdale, there will be no further service. Please leave the train and find a bus or taxi to take you the rest of the way."

I looked at my watch. My first client canceled that morning, giving me an extra hour to make my way into the city. No pressure.

Then, watching hundreds of passengers pour out of the train onto the platform, my ease quickly disappeared. "How in the world will we all find cabs? I don't have it in me to figure out how to get a bus from here." Ugh.

People began forming small lines facing the curb as if they knew the station's taxi habits. I walked up to two men, asking if they knew anything. Barely looking my way, the one who looked like the leader, replied...

"We ordered an Uber."

"Where are you headed?", I asked.

"East 57th Street", he said.

"Might I share your ride? I'm getting off at East 86th"...coming into the city from the North, meant he and his companion would have to pass through the cross street of my destination - it wouldn't be out of his way. Surely he would say "yes" - we were in this together - so many people, so few choices.

"No...", he said, "...we don't know which way he'll go in - he could take the Drive.." (referring to the highway hugging the outer side of the city)."It wouldn't work.".

I thanked him and left in search of someone more welcoming.

I saw two women talking and nodding, trying to put together travel solutions.

"Do many cabs come in here?", I asked. An attractive woman of about 50 quickly responded - without asking where in the city I was headed...

"I just called Uber, you're welcome to join me."

"I have no cash", I said, do you think the driver would split the cost using my bank card?".

"Not a problem", she replied, "I have to take it anyway. I don't mind paying."

A fourth woman spoke up...

"I'm headed to East 74th Street, I called Uber too - would that help?. Another woman joined in, "Great, I'm headed to the East Side, can I ride with you? I have no cash. Can I pay you back?"

"Of course", the woman replied, joking about this being the first time she'd used the app her teenager installed only a day earlier. She had a look of delight, eager to save the day with this new-found power she held in her hand.

I thanked the first woman, but realizing the second woman's destination was closer to mine, said, "I'll ride with you if that's o.k., but I have no cash either...may I send you the money?"

"Sure", she said, chastising us both, "You women who travel without money, how do you do it? I tell my kids to always have money in their wallet". We laughed at our foolishness and how dependent we'd grown on a small piece of plastic we trusted would take care of just about everything.

In the minutes we stood waiting my mind ran to the reason for the delay...what had happened? I glanced at the train company's twitter feed - a man had been hit on the tracks. A gripping contradiction - a glorious Spring day, not too hot, the right amount of sun, these happy, animated women and everyone around me moving on while this man's life had come to an end. Will anyone notice?

Uber pulled up and off we went. We introduced ourselves - a stay at home mother of two college-aged children, a recently retired head nurse from Austen Briggs, and me.

The next 30 minutes flew by with non-stop chatter about everything from parenting in today's complicated world to the practice of medicine and how it's changed (the stay at home mother married to an MD in private practice), worry about the state of our country, and finally, how within one family children's dispositions can be so different. We took to each other well...we were interested, curious, enthused about the opportunity to meet strangers who in spite of coming from three different places in life, had so much to share. We talked over each other, interrupted, switched topics, uttered more than a few half-finished sentences. It was wonderful. Nothing but warmth.

In the middle of the chatter we managed to exchange business cards so the woman paying the fare could contact the cashless women to settle our debts. The paying woman and I then combined the few Spanish words we struggled to remember to give the driver our destinations - easy as pie. We worked as a team and made it happen.

I joked about the men I'd approached and how disinterested they were - making not a single effort when I asked to join their ride. "If I was 25", I said, "...they would have said yes immediately, taken me to my destination, stopped along the way to order my breakfast, and charged me nothing but my phone number." They laughed in agreement.

I was joking, but it was true. The older women get, the more they're on their own. It occurred to me that riding with two stuffy men would have been far less interesting than riding with three women with no agenda other than healthy curiosity - "What about you...what's your story? What do you think about this...?"

I jumped out of the cab in front of the Metropolitan Museum. People everywhere. Tourists and art sellers and hot dog stands. I thought again how beautiful the day was, how happy I was to have met these lovely people, how fortunate I am to be alive. But, as I stepped back into the city's energy, I thought about the man on the track. He would never know his life had changed mine.



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