The first day was hard to talk to people because I was new to the area, and the second because people in New York City don’t seem to stop moving. Tuesday started out with even more difficulty. I should mention that I have a somewhat heightened sense of hearing, and we spent part of the morning talking to people beneath an overhead subway terminal. If you’ve ever tried talking to people above the noise of trains passing overhead, you would understand my experience. That is, if they’ll even pay attention to you. But that was just the morning.
The forecast for Tuesday called for rain all day, so the plan was to stick with the subways and later ride the Staten Island Ferry. As if talking with subways running overhead wasn’t difficult enough, trying to talk while they were constantly coming and going around me was nearly impossible. Each day seemed to add a new layer of noise as a barrier I could not overcome; I felt so useless trying to talk with anyone when I couldn’t even hear myself, plus the fact that trains arrived so often, which quickly cut off most encounters. I think I had one good conversation going before the guy I was talking with had to go.
After being in NYC for about a day or so, what I felt in the subway terminal at one point is probably best described as discouragement or defeat. If I must be honest, there were times during the trip I felt a bit disconnected from everyone else with me, and it was those times I felt the most vulnerable. Besides heightened hearing, another thing about me is that I spend a lot of time being introspective, and it sometimes creates a sense of isolation, no matter how many other people are around me. I’ve really only become social within the past six years or so, but whenever I am not actively talking with anyone else, finding a conversation to join, or noticing the noise level, I tend to become introspective. This trip was no different; if I wasn’t talking to a stranger or someone I was traveling with, I sometimes became very introspective.
I felt so discouraged because I saw many people rushing around, few having time to stop and talk or even willing to accept a tract as they passed by. People are so rushed in this city that never stops moving, and they don’t seem to have time for God. Not only do people not have time for God, but as I also noticed on subways and other areas, people put on headphones or bury themselves in reading material or some electronic device, so they don’t necessarily have to acknowledge others around them between where they were and where they’re going. Since I’ve seen this back home and other places outside New York as well, it occurred to me that New York City is just a small version of the country as a whole; we have such an individualistic culture and individualized distractions that it’s easy to tune out whatever we want. We’re too busy for God and too self-absorbed for other people. I can’t say I don’t do this myself. I currently live by myself, so I know what it’s like to feel isolated or lonely, and not always by choice, but sometimes I think we bring those feelings on ourselves by our actions or inactions.
While the subway and its busyness felt discouraging, the Staten Island Ferry we would be on later that afternoon was one of the times I enjoyed during the whole week.