Subway train.

Intimate Strangers

“People are in their own world and they don’t want you interrupting their day. Folk on the subway don’t talk.” So I’d been given the rules ahead of time. People did not want me trying to be friendly. Well that was going to be difficult if not impossible.

We climbed on as the train (sub way) pulled in and there was only one seat. My husband nodded at me to take it while he and our son stood. I scrunched into the space beside a grey-haired woman and immediately she muttered in a disgruntled manner, “Oh Yeah she had to sit here. Make me all uncomfortable. I shoulda known.”

“I’m sorry” I told her. “Do you want me to move?”

With a huge sigh she muttered back, “I suppose you can stay.”

The words were okay but the tone of her voice told me I was not welcome in the seat.

“I can move if you would like me to. Really. I don’t mind, especially if it is bothering you,” I told her in a gentle and sincere manner.

Another sigh, and she told me to stay. “No, it’s okay you can stay.”

So strangers don’t want me to talk on the subway. Okay, but she had started this so I figured we could have a conversation and I felt challenged to change her negative perspective. I asked her if she had ever been out to Alberta. She waited all of two seconds, then responded, “No but we’ve been through on the way to Vancouver.”

“I love it there,” I told her and went on to mention the great weather, friendly people and beautiful plants. “Where are you from originally?” I asked her

Now here was a topic she wanted to talk about and soon I heard about her life in the old country and the languages she learned. She talked until it was time for her to get off, smiled and warmly bid me good-bye.

Hey this subway traveling is okay!

At a station the following day my husband and son went to buy tickets and I stood watching people. The ticket taker caught me watching him and he frowned. I smiled at him and he glared back at me. I kept on smiling and would not turn away. He walked over to me with this stern look and matching gait.

“Did you want to sing a song for me?” he asked

Surprised, yet pleased he was talking to me, (but then maybe ticket takers don’t count), I responded, “I would sing you a song, except my husband is with me and it would make him feel uncomfortable. Truly, if I was alone, I would sing you a song in a minute.” (And why not? music is uplifting!)

“Did you want me to sing you a song?” he asked and oh my, but he had a twinkle in his eyes and there was a hint of a smile.

“Yes please, I’d like that.” I told him.

Then this most beautiful deep voice began singing , “Strangers In the Night” and I gasped at the charisma of his voice, the timbre, character and brilliance. His voice was exceptional and the song was a gift.

Soon husband and son came up alongside of us, but I never took my eyes off the man with magnificent voice. He continued with the song, and he had my absolute attention. I hoped my dear husband would understand you can’t just walk off in the middle of a gift.

When the man finished I felt so uplifted by his gift of song and sincerely I told him, “your voice is exquisite and you need to share it.”

“I did. I was an opera singer.”

“Oh you must continue to share this lovely voice with others”, I told him

“This I can no longer do,” he told me. “You see, I am ill and I can not be counted on for bookings. I never know when the illness will flare up”

Grateful I had been given a most special performance we said our good-byes. By now, I know my stepson was wondering what else could possibly happen on the sub way. He lived in Toronto and gave us all the rules about subway riding. Me, I was just a little hometown girl.

As we rode back on the sub way again that night I found a seat beside a couple. I turned to them and said, “I know I am not supposed to talk to you.” “Why ever not?” the man asked.

“I am told people on the sub way do not want anyone to speak with them,” I explained, “but have you seen Crocodile Dundee?” I paused for them to remember this movie character then grinning I stuck out my hand, “ Hi my name is Ellie and I am from Alberta.” With that, they began to laugh as they took turns shaking my hand.

As we chatted like old friends, a gentleman two seats away turned around to look at me. I could not read the look and puzzled over it.

The couple soon had to leave and they said they were sorry to end the conversation but their stop was coming up. They turned again as they left smiling, waving, biding good-bye.

As soon as they were gone and the train pulled out again, the gentleman who had turned to look at me earlier got up and came over. Apologizing he said, “I could not help overhearing a bit of your conversation and…” We were all soon in conversation.

He stepped off with us as we pulled into our station, speaking in an animated fashion. I could tell he was thrilled for the opportunity of having people to chat with on the ride.

As we stood out on the platform he looked at us and said, “I want to sing a song for you.”

It was more of a question, and pleased to have two songs in one trip I responded with, “great.”

Then, with a most pleasant voice, he began to sing, and I gasped at the coincidence for his choice of songs was, “Strangers in the Night.”

~ Ellie Braun-Haley ~
Copyright © 2008 by Ellie Braun-Haley
Author of A Little Door, A Little Light

Ellie has had considerable success as an author with several books and many articles and stories to her credit - including a number of stories in the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series.  Ellie is the author of: "A Little Door, A Little Light."  Click on the "link" below to visit her personal website.

[ By: Ellie Braun-Haley Copyright © 2008, ( -- Submitted by: Ellie Braun-Haley ]

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