Yesterday I managed to snag a seat on a crowded BART train, getting on at the 24th street station, delighted to have a few minutes to read. My current book is West of Kabul, East of New York, the 2008 “San Francisco Reads” pick which may as well be called “Lael Reads” because I have yet to see another person doing their mandatory civic duty. Surely if we all at least skimmed this book our BART and bus rides would be filled with scintillating conversations and good-natured ribbing of the main characters. However, my dreams of constantly striking up heated debates with mysterious and articulate literary strangers hasn’t quite panned out, no matter how visible I make the cover of the book.
So anyway, I sat down and began to read. It is at this point that my seatmate, a girl in her twenties, begins to complain to her friend sitting in front of her.
“So, I’ve begun noticing that the same kinds of people ALWAYS sit next to me! I mean what is it about me that attracts them?”
She then proceeded to turn and look at me. Then she turned back to her friend.
“It’s always these old Asian women, with lots of shopping bags.”
I am neither old nor Asian, and I carried exactly zero shopping bags.
Girl: “I just wish that once, some really hot guy would sit next to me and start talking to me.”
She then looked over at me again, this time in disgust.
I looked back. I sensed in her a kindred spirit, someone else who wanted to connect with a stranger. I thought about sharing my book approach with her, but there are only so many hot guys in our city, and even fewer who read, and I deemed this secret strategy too precious to be shared. So I kept silent, knowing she would never know just how alike we were, and that old Asian ladies sit next to me on BART all the time too.