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Growing Pains: NOLA rides the Metro

Washington Square Park, New York, New York

Washington Square Park, New York, New York.
October 14, 2013

Sunday night, five of us from the Entrepreneurship Group at the University of Virginia summited the overpass into Jersey City.

For this we had a magnificent view of the New York City skyline while we blasted Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”, to greet the end of our seven-hour drive from Virginia.

Monday, New Orleans smiled down on The Big Apple as two of her daughters -- myself and my best friend -- were joyfully reunited on the stairs of Columbia University.

Before that happened though, NOLA had to ride the metro.

Monday morning found me clicking down the stairs at the corner of West 4th Street and 6th Avenue in my boots and jacket as the ground swallowed me into the subway system.

It was there that New Orleans rode the blue line. And it was there that I learned a lot: about people, about joy, about the power of a smile.

I waited for a couple minutes on the platform for the C train and stepped aboard.

First off, you must know that I love public transit. I rode the streetcar to school almost every day from 7th to 12th grade. It was a second home. I am still friends with Melvin, one of my favorite streetcar drivers, and I would always chat with either someone familiar or new -- but always interesting -- on my way to or from school.

Now back to the Big Apple.

I stepped onto the C train, stood in the aisle, and I brought NOLA with me.

The subway was silent. For the most part, no one talked to anyone else, no one looked at anyone else, for 40 whole minutes.

However, the few people who raised their eyes in my direction, in that underground maze, received a little bit of NOLA. They received a smile from a stranger.

It seems like nothing; smiling at passers-by in New Orleans is a given. It’s almost rude not to.

I smiled at every person who dared raise their eyes in that sad, quiet, metal tube. And every single person looked either momentarily surprised or confused before smiling back.

But they smiled back.

And most of them kept smiling, as they felt New Orleans, and her essence, there in that metal tube, too.

Native New Orleanian Elizabeth Kukla is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She writes about being a NOLA girl from afar in “Growing Pains,” a weekly column at NolaVie.