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ODDS & ENDS
The Subway Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old Turned Tyke

by Hal Evan Caplan
June 18, 2008

We all know things change. For some, the old saying from Benjamin Franklin rings so true; "In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes". Not only do things change, but people change...and they get OLDER! I am in the process of dealing with that very thing. My three year old teacher is no longer three and I have written all of the lessons that my 3 year old teacher was to teach. This poses quite the dilemma, since he is no longer three and my series is titled, "Teachings of a Three Year Old".

I have thought long and hard about the proper title going forward. At first I thought, "Well, that should be easy, I would just change it to the next age". However, in an effort to maintain a consistent topic, I chose to rename the series, "Teachings of a Tyke." I felt naming the series "Teachings of a Tyke", would give me several more years of lessons during the time when my teacher is 4, 5 and even 6 years old.

Now onto the first lesson from my 4 year old teacher!

Life is weird! Things pop up in the most random places. Okay, let me be a little more specific. One example that comes to mind is when peaceful moments unexpectedly appear in very stressful and crowded situations...I like to call these moments "little treasures." It is interesting to me, the exact time and place my teacher chooses to teach me. Even in the most stressful of situations he can start his lesson.

Recently we were in New York City for a family reunion. One of the focal points of the family reunion is "SWING-A-RING" day (Google it). At the end of the "Swing-A-Ring" day, a few of us decided to head back to the hotel, and in order to do this, we needed to catch the subway.

It was late-afternoon on a Saturday, and when we got down to the subway platform, I noticed a "couple" playing some instruments. Take into account that there were a lot (when I say a lot, I mean A LOT) of people waiting for the subway, and more and more kept coming down from the streets above. I did not really hear their music even though they were playing nearby, because of the sheer number of people and the hustle and bustle of the New York subway system.

My dad and step-mom maneuvered like foxes through the crowd of New Yorkers and worked their way close to where the subway doors would open. Meanwhile, as I held my teacher in my arms, I was determined to also make my way over to where they were standing. However, my teacher had a different idea. He had a lesson plan in mind, and at that moment he was going to start teaching me the lesson.

My teacher screamed in my ear, but it was hard to understand what he was saying because it was so noisy with all of the people, the noise from the other subway trains racing past, plus all the other random noises.

Was I overwhelmed? Yes! Was I a little stressed out over all of this? Yes! Did I want to yell for Calgon (Bath & Body) to take me away? ABSOLUTELY!

As we began to work our way over to where my dad and step-mom were standing, my teacher began to vigorously tap me on my shoulder in order to tell me something again. This time he cupped his hands together near my ear, and began to speak into his hands. Just then, the subway train on the other track departed and I was able to actually hear my teacher.

"Dad, look." He pointed to the couple playing music.
"I see them." I acknowledged.
"Let?s get closer." He expressed.
"We are trying to catch the subway." I emphasized.
"But, it is not here yet." He noted.
"I know, but..."
"They are playing guitars." He pointed out.

It was then that I really noticed them through all of the madness. They were singing and playing two acoustic guitars, and I admit they sounded great. I am a sucker for acoustic guitars and my teacher knew that.

"Get closer", he repeated.
I nodded and agreed with some reluctance.

Amongst the madness of the subway platform, we stood very close to the couple and listened. Not one other person stopped to listen nor did it appear that anyone else noticed they were even there in the world, let alone singing and playing.

All of a sudden, our subway train appeared out of nowhere. Like a herd of cattle, the mass of bodies attempted to enter the doors. My teacher and I were still in front of the two musicians when I saw that my dad and step mom had easily made their way onto the subway train. I was actually not even sure that my teacher and I would even make it at this point. Luckily, with my teacher still in my arms, we squeezed in by the hair on our chinney-chin-chins.

As the passengers on the subway thinned out after several stops, my teacher turned and looked at me face to face and said,

"Well, what did you think?" He asked.
"Think about what?" I asked.
"Those people." He responded.

Okay, take in mind that over the last 15 minutes, I had seen what appeared to be a million people, so I had know idea what people he was talking about.

"The cool music people." He reminded me.
"I loved it." I replied.
"See, I'm glad that you listened to me and watched them for a minute." He boasted.
"Me too." I agreed. "The music was beautiful."
"Dad, why didn't anyone else stop and listen like us"? He asked.
"I honestly don?t really know." I answered.

At dinner that night my dad made mention that he thought for sure that my teacher and I were going to miss the subway train earlier that day.

My teacher and I made eye contact and we both began to chuckle.

Then, my teacher leaned in and whispered in my ear...

"Dad, that music was beautiful!"

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: If you look for life's little treasures, you can find them anywhere.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.


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