Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Touchy Feely

On a flight back to New York from Chicago last weekend, I woke up from a nap to find my face less than a couple inches from the passenger next to me. We had dozed off facing each other, heads fallen to the edges of our seats unknowingly about half-a-nudge away from Eskimo kissing. We both opened our eyes at the fasten seat belt ding, noticed the awkward lack of distance between us and simultaneously jolted our heads back. He was a twenty or maybe early thirty something with a mop of black curly hair and matching patchy beard. He tapped his feet and fingers to whatever was on his iPod. He ordered a Jack Daniels neat and called me a "troublemaker" when I asked to slip out to use the restroom. I laughed to myself after whipping my head back to face my tray table. For total strangers, we had just shared a pretty intimate 10 or 20 minutes- swapping breathes as we virtually shared a pillow. As far as I could asses, I was more responsible for the almost snuggling than the hipster in the tomato red cardigan sweater. I had fallen slightly farther left in my seat than he had fallen right. I laughed because I'm not surprised my subconscious curled me up to a total stranger. I'm a notorious personal space invader.

A male friend recently told me that the average person needs about 8 touches per day to maintain a healthy sense of connection to his or her surroundings.

"Vanessa, you need like 80," he joked after sharing the statistic.

He's right. I'm a big fan of touching, hugging, holding hands, rubbing, snuggling and generally grabbing on to the people I talk to or walk next to. No romantic interest necessary (see snuggling strange man on airplane), I simply like to be close. I suppose that's why New York and I get along so well.

It's a touchy city. From crowded 6-train at rush hour (aka spring break Cancun as one bump in the rail can press you up against/booty dance you with whoever is crammed behind you) to being seated no more than a fork's distance from any other diner at a popular restaurant, it's a place where personal space doesn't entirely exist.

Of all my city complaints- mice, monthly rent check that violates my bank account, frozen puddle of hobo pee I slipped on last winter- the whole lack of personal space thing is most tolerable.

At risk of sounding both creepy and cheesy (creesy?), I'll admit I find it sort of exhilarating to have so many opportunities everyday to connect with random people. I hug and hold on to people when I talk to them because I like interacting and, on my better days, I really appreciate the way New York City forces interaction.

It's not just me driving to work and back. It's me and the senile old Cuban lady (once professional ballerina) who paces my building's lobby in a lace trimmed moomoo waiting to open the door for people. It's me and that very good looking man in fancy suits who lives a block down and, as if it's choreographed, always steps off his stoop while I'm walking past it. It's me and whatever mixed bag is sharing my subway cart- people I smile at or stare at or roll my eyes with when a crazy/drunk man jumps on as the doors are shutting to scream out to us "why God hates women and women love abortions." (true story)

Sure, the interactions aren't always magical. Some days the slow old Cuban lady holds me up when I'm in a rush, fancy suit man doesn't float down his stoop in freshly polished shoes and I can't drown out whatever noise I don't want to hear on the subway with my iPod. But you get used to it. In fact, after more than two years here, I'm fairly certain I'd miss all this hubbub if I had to do day to day without it.

Back on the airplane, several minutes after invading the bearded hipster's personal space, I offered him a stick of gum. He took it but said nothing. We chewed side by side in silence. I wanted small talk. I wanted to know what he does for a living, what trendy Brooklyn neighborhood he resides in, why he was throwing back Jack Daniels before 2:00pm. We napped together for goodness sake, I wanted to know his name. But I got nothing.

The plane landed. We stood up to file out of the aisle. Without my asking, he pointed at my luggage, waited for my nod then plucked it out of the overhead compartment. "Thanks!" I exclaimed a bit too enthusiastically. He shrugged and walked off the plane. Still I'm convinced we had a moment- and that he thinks I'm crazy.

Not crazy sir, just creesy.

1 comment:

  1. While you're at home sunning your buns, some of us are working. So if you could whip up another blog post to provide those of us in the frozen tundra with some reading material, it would be much appreciated. And hurry up and get back already. xo