02 July 2008

The Universal Language

So, a couple of days ago, I was riding the subway, and I was struck by something that was both funny (well, funny to me) and universal. I was sitting there as the train pulled into the station and people clumped near the door to disembark.

I don't know about where you live, but generally it's considered pretty good form for the people waiting to board the train to be cool and let those who are leaving the train do so before they come charging, pell-mell, into the car to stake a claim on the empty seats.

As happens more often than not, the people wanting on the train plowed through the disembarking passengers, knocking many of them aside, as they clambered for choice spots. Among those caught near the door was a couple of French tourists and some random New Yorker hanging onto the bar and reading her magazine, who really weren't trying to get off the train; they just happened to be standing there.

After the stampede happened and the tourists and magazine-reading chick managed to settle back down, the guy half of the French couple turned to the magazine lady and, not really having the language to express the sentiment, gave his eyebrows a single wag, as if to say, "What're you gonna do? People!" And she returned the same wag, in agreement.

That whole thing made me chuckle, until I then saw the gesture repeated three more times during the same ride home. All meant to convey pretty much the same sentiment in different situations. The facial equivalent of a shoulder shrug.

People. What're you gonna do?

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