This morning there was a sick passenger on the G train to Queens.
I didn’t see what happened. My headphones were blaring “Freaky Money” by RuPaul (featuring Big Freedia) so I didn’t hear anything either. I just noticed everyone staring intently in one direction. Much the same way a fish in a school suddenly knows to turn one way or the other.
There was a clearing near the door. Everyone was looking on the floor, but at who I couldn’t see just yet.
The entire car grew very still. Quiet. Cooperative. Despite a bit of initial confusion at what to do, a crowd of perfect strangers began to move and act as one.
One man knelt down and helped a young woman who had fallen. Had she hit her head? I didn’t know. But she seemed out cold for a few moments. He asked if she was okay. Her first instincts were to apologize and to try to get up but he assured her she needn’t do either, but just to lie still.
We came to a stop at the next station and a voice shouted for someone to tell the conductor to hold the train for a sick passenger.
Hearing that there is a sick passenger and that you are being held is among the last things a New Yorker ever wants to hear. This usually means that your train is going to be stopped for an indefinite period of time with no guarantee that you’ll be continuing on to your destination. But everyone remained oddly patient and perfectly quiet.
At the station, the man picked her up in his long arms and carried her to a bench. Just before this she had tried to get up on her own and quickly realized she could not — or ought not.
He set her down on the bench with some kind of coat or scarf beneath her head.
Someone called out “she dropped her phone” and ran it out to her.
Another passenger held the doors open while still another ran to notify the conductor.
Moments later an MTA employee trained to handle such things was at the woman’s side assessing the situation and communicating to someone on a walkie talkie.
Despite what was turning out to be a long delay, I was so pleased to see how calm everyone was being. There were easily 150 people on this train car alone and I’m sure all of us had better places to be — some even on a tight schedule. I could only imagine if I were trying catch a plane or get to an important audition or pick up a prescription before the pharmacy closed for the entire weekend. A delay like this can sometimes very truthfully have dire consequences for a person. And yet everyone allowed the well-being of this one sick passenger to come first.
Once the situation was in good hands and the man stepped back onto the train — I’m a sentimental type — I wanted to commend him with a unanimous round of applause. But even I knew that would be a gratuitous and gross display. One man told him he did a good job, but the man shrugged off the compliment with a “Thanks.” Even he knew this wasn’t about him or ego or praise.
It was then announced that the train was being “dispatched” which I never experienced before, but it meant everyone had to get off the train and… and what? Wait for the next one? No one was certain. Most of us have never experienced this before.
Even waiting for the next train would have taken forever but still people expressed no impatience. If anything, a bit of confusion was expressed at what to do next.
I decided to brave the cold and walk a few blocks to a different train line. I had already missed my personal training session and had to reschedule, but I was just glad the situation was handled.
Maybe it was nothing. Maybe the girl got dizzy for no reason and just fainted. Nothing serious. Maybe she’d have been fine on her own. But I’m so grateful that everyone around her knew to take care of her and make sure she was okay, and that people emerged from the crowd who knew what to do.
I am so proud to be a New Yorker. The stakes are always high in this city, but when it comes down to it, there is a genuine care that we all seem to share for each other whether or not we’ll admit it theoretically.