September 1st, 2006

Tom Lehrer is Smug

Oh it's the New Shoe Revue

"New shoes?"

Skinny man in his 20s. Typical Boston Irish lad, wiry hair, pointy chin, wearing a faded sports jersey and, for most of the Red Line ride up from Broadway, nervously smacking his cellphone. Now, after the train had stopped at Park Street to gorge itself on afternoon commuters and groan along to Charles, he'd suddenly found the strength and inner courage to speak aloud.

"New shoes?"

This didn't faze the trainload one bit. Many folks suddenly find themselves getting chatty around Charles. Usually, though, their statements are self-affirming solutions to identity crises: "It's me." Or self-grounding reminders of one's place in the universe: "I'm on the train." Often, they involve cellphones. This young man didn't have one, though. He was staring at the ground.

"New shoes?"

Then he stared up at the woman in front of him. Early 30s. Office worker. Probably HR. Large black bag over her shoulder.

"New shoes?"

She finally decided to notice him.

"I'm sorry?"

"I was, uh. Just noticing. New shoes?"

The other passengers, obviously in shock that A Stranger had actually gone and spoken to Another Stranger, stayed stock-still and silent. Everybody nonchalantly tried to appear preoccupied with staring at anything else they could find. I peered over my copy of 101 Ways to Avoid Eye Contact and looked down. The lady was wearing some strappy kind of shoe-thing. One on each foot, I mean. She had two feet. And each foot was wearing a shoe. But one foot had a band-aid around its ankle.

"No," the lady sighed. "That was my own stupidity." Then she dropped her bag on the ground and stepped behind it, inching herself away from the guy and conveniently hiding her footwear at the same time. I braced myself for the obvious follow-up question, but it never came. The guy had turned to another lady standing near him.

"Want my seat?"

I went back to my book.

One of my favorite bits o' Thurber

The Little Girl and the Wolf
One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.
from "Fables For Our Time"