I’d just run into Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Majority Leader, on the street the day before. Stealing a few extra creative minutes on my commute to work, I had pulled out my Moleskin to pen a few notes about the encounter before my stop.
Along the way a man in his twenties entered the subway car, cell phone attached to his ear. He sat down in the empty seat next to me.
Geez, you sound like you’re having a friggin heart attack.
I’m just calling you back to say “I love you.”
Yeah, you too. Bye.
Without missing a beat I turned to a new page in my notebook and began to transcribe his one-way conversation. This seemed like such a natural transition. When you feel a story coming on you have to commit to it. No hesitation.
He rang another friend.
Hi. What are you laughing for?
Didn’t you see my name on the Caller ID?
Did you call Jeff?
You haven’t tried calling him have you?
At the sound of my name the hair on the back of my neck tickled, sending a lone shiver down my spine.
What’s that? Yeah.
I don’t know if it would have helped if I’d called him.
I could have played dumb.
I continued to record in full view. Every time he paused, I would pause. When he’d resume talking, I’d begin to write. The pattern was so transparent. Would he notice?
I imagined my detection as I continued to pen his every word. He was so close I could feel him exhale as ended each phrase. I kept my eyes cemented to my paper as if I was in my own world, not his. The tension was so taut I was fully awake now. It was an exhilarating sensation. Every day should start out like this.
He left me a message the other night.
Yeah, during the Oscars.
I hope not, but…
Hey, wait a minute, there’s a guy sitting right next to me writing down everything I say.
I would discretely close my notebook. But it would be too late. “What are you doing? he’d ask. People would look up from their newspapers to watch. Feeling the excitement build I’d turn to face him and reply: “I’m writing down everything you say. Did you think you were in a phone booth?”
Yeah, I’d take the honest and direct approach with just a hint of sarcasm. “Just think of me as your personal stenographer,” I’d add, hoping he could at least appreciate good customer service before he punched me.
Instead, he continued talking into his phone, totally oblivious to his scribe.
Yeah, I told you, he left me a message.
I’ve never seen him go into rescue mood before.
“Notice me. Catch me in the act!” I thought. I was poised for a real conversation. But at the next stop he got up, still talking into his mouthpiece as he left me.
Next time. Yes, maybe next time.
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