Craigslist Missed Connection Ad The Best Short Story You’ll Read Today

Flickr user WhiskeyGoneBad

Craigslist Missed Connections ads are often entertaining, but seldom can they be considered worthwhile works of fiction.

The nondescript “Missed Connection – m4w” may have initially been overlooked by the scores of New Yorkers seeking the sultry redhead who caught their eye while browsing the incontinence aisle of Duane Reade, but it soon set the Internet on fire. At turns humorous and heartbreaking, the 1,000-word treatise touches on love at first sight, missed opportunities and regret during one fairly long ride on the NYC subway.

According to the Village Voice, the author is likely Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who was the first to post a link to the ad on Twitter.

While I’m a little jealous that my ad selling my old Craftsman lawn mower didn’t garner the same notoriety, the Craigslist story serves not only as a wonderful piece of found art, but as a bittersweet reminder to make the most of every opportunity which presents itself.

The entire Craigslist post after the jump.

I saw you on the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Q train.

I was wearing a blue-striped t-shirt and a pair of maroon pants. You were wearing a vintage red skirt and a smart white blouse. We both wore glasses. I guess we still do.

You got on at DeKalb and sat across from me and we made eye contact, briefly. I fell in love with you a little bit, in that stupid way where you completely make up a fictional version of the person you’re looking at and fall in love with that person. But still I think there was something there.

Several times we looked at each other and then looked away. I tried to think of something to say to you — maybe pretend I didn’t know where I was going and ask you for directions or say something nice about your boot-shaped earrings, or just say, “Hot day.” It all seemed so stupid.

At one point, I caught you staring at me and you immediately averted your eyes. You pulled a book out of your bag and started reading it — a biography of Lyndon Johnson — but I noticed you never once turned a page.

My stop was Union Square, but at Union Square I decided to stay on, rationalizing that I could just as easily transfer to the 7 at 42nd Street, but then I didn’t get off at 42nd Street either. You must have missed your stop as well, because when we got all the way to the end of the line at Ditmars, we both just sat there in the car, waiting.

I cocked my head at you inquisitively. You shrugged and held up your book as if that was the reason.

Still I said nothing.

We took the train all the way back down — down through Astoria, across the East River, weaving through midtown, from Times Square to Herald Square to Union Square, under SoHo and Chinatown, up across the bridge back into Brooklyn, past Barclays and Prospect Park, past Flatbush and Midwood and Sheepshead Bay, all the way to Coney Island. And when we got to Coney Island, I knew I had to say something.

Still I said nothing.

And so we went back up.

Up and down the Q line, over and over. We caught the rush hour crowds and then saw them thin out again. We watched the sun set over Manhattan as we crossed the East River. I gave myself deadlines: I’ll talk to her before Newkirk; I’ll talk to her before Canal. Still I remained silent.

For months we sat on the train saying nothing to each other. We survived on bags of skittles sold to us by kids raising money for their basketball teams. We must have heard a million mariachi bands, had our faces nearly kicked in by a hundred thousand break dancers. I gave money to the beggars until I ran out of singles. When the train went above ground I’d get text messages and voicemails (“Where are you? What happened? Are you okay?”) until my phone ran out of battery.

I’ll talk to her before daybreak; I’ll talk to her before Tuesday. The longer I waited, the harder it got. What could I possibly say to you now, now that we’ve passed this same station for the hundredth time? Maybe if I could go back to the first time the Q switched over to the local R line for the weekend, I could have said, “Well, this is inconvenient,” but I couldn’t very well say it now, could I? I would kick myself for days after every time you sneezed — why hadn’t I said “Bless You”? That tiny gesture could have been enough to pivot us into a conversation, but here in stupid silence still we sat.

There were nights when we were the only two souls in the car, perhaps even on the whole train, and even then I felt self-conscious about bothering you. She’s reading her book, I thought, she doesn’t want to talk to me. Still, there were moments when I felt a connection. Someone would shout something crazy about Jesus and we’d immediately look at each other to register our reactions. A couple of teenagers would exit, holding hands, and we’d both think: Young Love.

For sixty years, we sat in that car, just barely pretending not to notice each other. I got to know you so well, if only peripherally. I memorized the folds of your body, the contours of your face, the patterns of your breath. I saw you cry once after you’d glanced at a neighbor’s newspaper. I wondered if you were crying about something specific, or just the general passage of time, so unnoticeable until suddenly noticeable. I wanted to comfort you, wrap my arms around you, assure you I knew everything would be fine, but it felt too familiar; I stayed glued to my seat.

One day, in the middle of the afternoon, you stood up as the train pulled into Queensboro Plaza. It was difficult for you, this simple task of standing up, you hadn’t done it in sixty years. Holding onto the rails, you managed to get yourself to the door. You hesitated briefly there, perhaps waiting for me to say something, giving me one last chance to stop you, but rather than spit out a lifetime of suppressed almost-conversations I said nothing, and I watched you slip out between the closing sliding doors.

It took me a few more stops before I realized you were really gone. I kept waiting for you to reenter the subway car, sit down next to me, rest your head on my shoulder. Nothing would be said. Nothing would need to be said.

When the train returned to Queensboro Plaza, I craned my neck as we entered the station. Perhaps you were there, on the platform, still waiting. Perhaps I would see you, smiling and bright, your long gray hair waving in the wind from the oncoming train.

But no, you were gone. And I realized most likely I would never see you again. And I thought about how amazing it is that you can know somebody for sixty years and yet still not really know that person at all.

I stayed on the train until it got to Union Square, at which point I got off and transferred to the L.

How Would You Improve The New York Subway?

Louis Brickman, Wikimedia Commons

The New York Subway is considered by many to be the best mass transit system in the world, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Randy Gregory, a student at the School of Visual Arts and frequent Subway rider, is putting his design skills to the test by exploring some possible improvements on his Tumblr, 100 Improvements. Since he’s a designer, many of his suggestions have to do with better signage, branding and advertisements, but other ideas include physical improvements to the areas inside and outside of Subway cars and stations.

Below, we handpicked 10 of our favorite innovations on Gregory’s blog. Whether it’s likely they’ll be implemented is debatable – but boy, wouldn’t it be nice?

Digital train marker: “‘Where are we?’ A common question I hear uttered on the train, especially on the weekends. A digital map, with a marker showing where your train is would help.”Designated directions on stairs: “At first glance, this could be seen as a hopeless gesture. But in countries like Japan, this works. People see the arrows, and follow accordingly, minus rush hour. A man can dream, right?”

Antimicrobial benches: “Currently, the benches in many stations are old, usually made out of wood, which isn’t easily cleaned. New benches, made out of antimicrobial material, would be easily to clean, and could become opportunities for cleaning brands to sponsor, like Lysol.

Gym-style flooring: “A soft gym style flooring could relieve our feet from the strain of standing. Not too soft, and not too hard.”

Subway door timers: “Start them at 30 seconds, and countdown. At zero, doors close. This way, if someone sees the train with 5 seconds left, and they’re 20 seconds away, they’ll second guess about trying to run for the doors.

Cardinal directions: “Wouldn’t it be great to step out of a train, look slightly down, and see what direction you’re in? Stations can be very disorienting, especially after a long trip. Simple cardinal directions alleviate this problem.”

Drains in subway cars: “A constant nuisance in the New York Subway system are spilled drinks… So why not install drains at both sides of the cars, in order to catch theses liquids?”

USB power stations: “With newer trains, the subway will utilize the kinetic energy created by braking. USB power stations can borrow some of this energy, so that riders with low batteries can charge up for 50 cents, all by tapping your RFID Metrocard.”

Textured grip: “Currently, we have to hold onto metal railings in the cars. It’s really easy to loose your grip though, and when the train stops hard, you could end up loosing your grip, hurting yourself or others. If the metal bars in the train had rubberized grips, this issue could be solved.

Car density tracking: “It’s a real pain when you’re standing on the platform, and the car you always get on is full… And sometimes, you miss the train, causing even more tension & anger. Live tracking, based on the weight of the cars, could determine this info. When you get to the platform, you can check the screen, and figure out where to stand. This results in better distribution of riders.”

Have a design idea to add? Let us know in the comments below.

[via Gizmodo]

World Subway Maps Drawn To Scale

subway maps by Neil FreemanThink New York has the most extensive subway system in the world? You may be right, but it’s a toss-up with London and Berlin. It’s easy to judge if you take all the metro systems and draw them to the same scale, as artist and urban planner Neil Freeman did in a series of minimalist subway maps. Comparing different systems, it’s a wonder why cities like Budapest even bothered with a metro, yet having ridden it, it’s a pretty extensive system.

Check out more of Neil Freeman’s awesome work, including a comparison of US metro regions and their respective states, a postcard of IATA airport codes, and in topical news, the electoral college map on his site Fake Is The New Real.

[Photo Credit: Neil Freeman]

Video: New York City subway tap dancer

If you find yourself on the New York City subway on any given weekend, you may be treated to the dance styling of a young tap dancer trying to support himself through college. Joshua Johnson is a junior at Penn State University and a native New Yorker who travels home twice a month to tap dance on the subway and earn extra cash through donations of subway riders. Joshua primarily taps on the 2, 3 and Q trains and calls his performance “The Tap Express.”

While performing and soliciting donations on the subway is illegal without permission from the MTA, chances are you’ve seen some kind of performer on the train if you’ve ridden enough times. In my 12-plus years in New York, I’ve seen (and even participated in) a few acts including magicians, break dancers, comedians, steel drummers, Doo Wop singers and plenty of just-plain-crazies, often the most entertaining performers of all.

Video produced by the New York Times.