Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New York Story

So this is a New York story. I'm sure that this couldn't happen anywhere else, pretty sure, let me know if I am wrong.

I'm on the A train coming home. Across from me is a little girl and her nanny. How do I know it's her nanny? I just do. No. The nanny is this little Hispanic woman, tiny woman with a little bun of black hair wound just to the left of center of her head. The little girl is blond blond blond and almost, not quite, but almost as tall as the woman. She is about nine years old.

She is studying her reading flash cards which her nanny is holding up for her to read one at a time. The words flash by: house, horse, piano, glass, lamp, basket..... the nanny holds up the card, the little girl squints at some of them, then answers, some of them are as familiar as her own name and she takes no time to pronounce them.

She gets stuck on the words Scissors. She looks at the card for a long time, then shrugs. It strikes me then, just then, not before, that the nanny doesn't have a clue what any of the cards say, she doesn't read English. She doesn't know if pee-an-o is correct, but what she is listening to is not the little girl. The nanny is listening to the response of those on the train with them.

"SaKISS, SkySSS," the girl guesses for another minute. The nanny holds the card up to the crowd.

This is a New York-on-the-subway-going-home crowd. Their faces are like mush. But, with the holding up of the card, the invitation to join in extended, one, and then another intrepid commuter chimes in. "More like SSSSS" says one. "See? Like this" says the other, making his fingers scissors in the air. "Cut, cut, cut". The girl looks at the card and then at her mentor strangers. "Scissors" she says."Scissors" "Ah" say the teachers, the prodders, the profs.

The nanny holds up another card. Bathtub, it says.
The crowd, now eager to help, waits for any hesitation on the part of the girl.
"Bath tub" she says.
Ah, says the crowd.
Hallway says the card.
Hmmm says the crowd.
Hallway, she says.
And on towards Washington Heights we fly.

Next card, next stop, next word, next lesson.
The lesson is you can learn your English vocabulary any place there is a New Yorker nearby. They are the most helpful people on Earth.