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Maundy Thursday

April 5, 2012

I was expecting today to be miserable. We had to put an end to the house negotiations. We are still waiting to hear the results. But strangely, although I’d been dreading dealing with it, I felt only calm afterwards. We are sure of what we want to do. And either these buyers will be part of it or not. Either way, we’ll survive.

The day might have seemed frazzled even so if it hadn’t ended up being so full of little surprises. Like the email I got with some suggestions for how to make one of my toys better from someone who likes to play. It was so perfectly stated, such a distinct and unusual authorial voice that, after passing it around to my coworkers, I printed it out, drew a frame around it and pinned it to the wall of my cube. Or learning that someone I work with quite unexpectedly confessing to me that she plays the banjo. We were sitting around a conference room table discussing the death of Earl Scruggs and now I am hatching plans for an office band. I know an accordionist on the tenth floor. Like getting an unexpected compliment from someone who’s never really spoken with me before. And then there was getting taken out to lunch by my boss’ boss. It was a lunch ambush, so I didn’t have time to be nervous. And I heard some interesting news that has given me some things to mull over. Good things.

I took the subway home today. I was tired and I have to clean and pack and thought the long walk might be too much. Someone else will be staying in the apartment next week, so I need to be a little more thorough than usual. I have a few subway options, but today I opted for the 6 to the L. I like switching trains at Union Square. There is such a huge number of bodies moving in and out of the center of the station from so many directions that it always seems magical when you get through without pausing or running into someone. I always try to imagine what it looks like from above. This morning when I passed through, Philip Glass’ Glassworks cycled up on my iPod, which made me feel like I’d fallen into a frame from Koyanisqaatsi. This afternoon was quieter. I got a seat right away. At the next station, a large group of people got on. I had them pegged for Midwesterners even before they started talking to me. “Are you on your way home from work?” they asked. “Where do you work?” I was so surprised to be interviewed on the subway that I answered them. “How do you like living in New York?” When they found out I was from Illinois, it was like old home week. I was reminded of a scene in a Kurt Vonnegut novel — Breakfast of Champions, maybe? — where the main character gets on a plane. The woman seated next to him asks where he’s from and he says Indianapolis. “I’m from Indianapolis!” she says excitedly. “Call me Mom!” They turned out to be on a mission trip from Michigan and they were heading to a Maundy Thursday service. “Do you have tomorrow off?” They asked. I said no, I didn’t. I steeled myself, prepared to be evangelized. But I got only sympathy. They shook their heads. “That’s too bad.” As we got off to get off the train at the last stop, the leader told me to have a blessed Easter. I smiled and said I hoped they had one too.

And strangely, I found that I meant it. It’s funny, because my knee-jerk reaction to the overtly religious, these days — whatever the religion — is to back slowly away or to gird myself for the invasion. But these people were not at all invasive, even as they were asking what should have felt like invasive questions. They didn’t try to convince me of anything. They just seemed like they were interested in finding out about the place they were in, like they were happy and wanted to share that happiness. When they told me to have a blessed Easter, I didn’t feel like they were trying to sell me something. I felt like they meant it.

Often when I come home by subway, I find myself feeling crabby and aggressive. It’s a bit of a fight to handle rush hour sometimes. But not today.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2012 9:03 pm

    I love your vignettes of New York.

  2. April 5, 2012 9:10 pm

    Me too.

  3. April 6, 2012 6:42 am

    You’re like a grownup Harriet!

  4. freshhell permalink
    April 6, 2012 8:19 am

    You work in a great place.

  5. magpiemusing permalink
    April 6, 2012 12:28 pm

    all these are the days my friends
    and these are the days my friends

    nice city stories. and yes, you work in a great place.

  6. April 6, 2012 2:50 pm

    I like it when the woman at Costco checks my receipt and tells me to have a blessed day. She always means it, and if she didn’t say it to me I think I’d feel like something was wrong.

  7. April 9, 2012 12:08 pm

    Funny that you should title the post Maundy Thursday” You all may know this, but the word “maundy” comes orginally from the Latin “mandatum”, as in the Holy Thursday prayer, “Mandatum novum do vobis”: I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.

    It seems as though that the Michigan family took that phrase to heart in the best possible way.

  8. April 9, 2012 12:18 pm

    Hugh, that’s actually exactly how this post got its title. I hadn’t known that before (or if I had, I’d forgotten) but had read about it earlier in the day.

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