A Slice of Life

I was on the subway again last week.  A well-dressed man gets on with an attache case, a sports (i.e. free) newspaper and a book.  He sits down and reads the newspaper for about twenty minutes.   Then he puts the paper down and picks up the book, which he holds with the cover facing conspicuously out, directly facing the opposite row of riders, in which I am sitting.  The book’s title is ‘“Yes” and “No”: the Guide to Better Decisions‘.  The book appears to be approximately 112 pages.  I note that not only is 112 the perfect number of pages to appear manageable to a second-language English speaker, but each and every word of the title seems scientifically chosen to appeal to the kind of blow-dried striver that the Korean subway system is infested with.  In an instant I  pictured his trip to the book store, where he fingered through the book for an agonizing long time, trying to decide between this book and ‘Who Moved My Cheese‘, the second easiest-seeming (96 pages!) self-help book.

He then proceeded to read aloud in a soft voice from the book, starting with the blurbs on the very first page and reading straight through for (not exaggerating, I timed him) an agonizing twenty five minutes in an accent that clearly marked him as at the level of most of my students (i.e. can’t read a book even that easy) without ever stopping or hesitating or puzzling over the hard parts.  In other words, he was semi-comprehendingly boring his way mindlessly through the book out loud on a crowded subway train, all the while advertising the book for all his fellow riders to see.

This morning I was on the same train at the same time.  The girl next to me was reading Wittgenstein in the original German, with no notes and no dictionary.  The girl on my other side was reading a Korean translation of Mankiw’s Principles of Economics.

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~ by Joshing on March 11, 2008.

7 Responses to “A Slice of Life”

  1. As a general rule, the more attention people draw to the things they do, the less important those things actually are.

  2. Wow, you not only have a long commute, you are amazingly observant, too! “Who Moved My Cheese” is so insultingly annoyiung that I once wrote a scathing review of it on amazon and got cranky emails from people who loved the books for weeks. That was years ago. Can’t imagine it’s still in print.

  3. That’s so cute! I wonder if he absorbed anything from the book at all?

    …and I say “cute” because I wasn’t there. Had I been anywhere near this person I probably would have try to stab them with the nearest sharp object.

  4. go to http://www.buckeyebadboys.com it is so awesome

  5. […] A Slice of Life I was on the subway again last week. A well-dressed man gets on with an attache case, a sports (i.e. free) newspaper […] […]

  6. Did you know that Greg Mankiw just linked you? 🙂

  7. “As a general rule, the more attention people draw to the things they do, the less important those things actually are.”

    This is an interesting observation, and could be said about us bloggers on most occasions. Why do we do this? Sure people have to take action to visit our blogs; we aren’t screaming our thoughts from the street corners. But is there really that big of a difference?

    Just wonderin . . .

    Nice blog. Keep it up!

    BT

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