Jessica Gross

Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Giving Up Your Seat

In musings, people watching on January 28, 2009 at 11:23 pm

On the subway, the woman sitting next to me was kinder than I. A lady with wispy, light blonde hair and a lined face came on board and stood in front of us.

“Do you want to sit down?” my seatmate asked, as I spread my newspaper over my lap.

The standing lady laughed. “That’s okay — I’m not as old as I look!”

There isn’t a better place to observe American social norms than subway-seat offerings. A girl offering a guy a seat is akin to slapping him in the face. A guy can offer a girl his age a seat, but a girl offering another girl her age a seat would get funny looks.

The real judgment call comes with the almost-elderly. Is it an insult to offer someone on the cusp a seat? — Is it like asking a round woman when the baby is due? Or should the seat-offering be a default question for anyone in the vicinity of old?


The Long Line

In people watching on January 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Yesterday, a friend and I spotted a long line of people, starting at 34th Street and stretching up Seventh Avenue.

“It’s a Miley Cyrus concert,” my friend quipped.

We approached the line to investigate. The people in line were middle-aged. “Not Miley Cyrus,” I said. “Too old.”

“Harry Connick, Jr.?”

We followed the line up Seventh and around the corner. It extended halfway down 35th Street toward Eighth and ended at a sign. My friend spotted it first:

Class Action Claims

Welcome Back

In musings, people watching on January 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I just returned to New York from a five-day trip to D.C., where I was one of the two million crazies who stood in the cold to watch President Barack H. Obama take the oath of office (it was so freezing, and so worth it). I took the bus home, and I’d only walked an avenue when a man stopped me.

“Excuse me, Miss?” he asked, with a faint accent I couldn’t place.

Directions! Of course I could help — back, as I was, in my home city. I stopped and paused.

“Have you ever heard of the Mother of God in the Bible?”

New York. Oh, New York. I guess this was my official “welcome back.”

I Hear the Best Quotes on the Bus

In quotables on January 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Early in the morning, a mother and a father (different families) were on school-run duty with their sons. The father turned to his parent friend and boasted, “You know, Eric loves to surf.” His son, on cue, jumped into a surfing stance — riding the bus, as it were.

“We don’t allow surfing,” the mother replied. She turned to her child, prisoner of neurotic parenting.

The father grimaced. “Eric, be careful,” he said. “There’s not enough space.”

Classic parent back-down: dad did a 180, but pretended it was unrelated to the mother’s disdain. I, meanwhile, took notes on my copy of the Week In Review.

And the Award Goes to…

In quotables on January 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

No, not the Golden Globes. I’m talking about a new award that I just made up, called “Worst Slogan Ever.” Today’s goes to a fake flower store with a tag line that made me cringe:

“Perfecting the craft of making faux botanicals appear real.”


In musings on January 12, 2009 at 1:07 am

I need to be the first person at the bus stop to spot our chariot in the distance, so I stand way out from the curb and peer down the street. The other day, as I waited for the M15 up First Avenue, I saw the top of some vehicle with a line of tiny orange lights. The bus!

But it wasn’t the bus — it was a truck. As it passed, I thought about how close I’d come to spotting the M15, my savior from the cold.

I used to do this, too, when I waited for my mom to pick me up from school. I’d see her shiny gray Volvo coming down the street…approaching the school…and then — damn. A saggy old man sat in the driver’s seat.

In fact, this makes no sense. A truck that looks like a bus, or my mom’s car driven by a grandpa, are no closer to being what I’m waiting for than an elephant hula hooping down the road.

Engulfed in the Crowd

In musings on January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I met a friend for dinner in Koreatown last night. He moved from Manhattan to Texas a few months ago and, in reminiscing about his city days, said that what most drew him to New York is what pushes so many people away — in fact, the people themselves. It’s a city full of residents who pay exorbitant amounts, he pointed out, just to be around really interesting people.

I’m not sure about that last part — I think people choose to live here as much for the prestige of affording a Manhattan apartment, and for the entertainment and feeding options, as for the interesting people. But there is a thrill to being surrounded by thousands of other humans who have no idea who you are. It’s even more anonymous than being truly alone because being part of a crowd emphasizes that you’re a stranger.
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In quotables on January 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Father: I’ve never seen you as happy as the day we brought Furby home.

Son: I don’t want that to be the memory.

Father: Maybe when you get married.

(In fact, this was my father. And my brother.)