The billboards that line the ceiling of the train are often labeled "Subway Talk." Tonight I witnessed a kind of subway talk that was a little less conventional.
I spent last night in my own apartment in Harlem so that I could check my mail, remove any unexpected UPS or FedEx doortags or Chinese take-out menus, and do other random housekeeping to keep my apartment from appearing vacant.
This evening I returned to my boss's apartment in the East Village to continue another week of cat-sitting. On a downtown 1 train to catch the L at 14th Street, I was drawn to a conversation between several women. I couldn't understand a word, but I found it incredibly interesting because they were conversing with their hands.
I have seen people communicate through sign language before, but I have never watched entire conversations. I tried not to "eyes-drop" but I couldn't stop glancing over - well, staring - at them. The group was slightly scattered, two women on each side of a random subway passenger and one women across the aisle adjacent to my seat.
What I found more interesting than the actual hand jestures themselves was the fact that they looked directly into each other's eyes throughout most of the conversation rather than at each other's hands. I had always subconsciously assumed that sign language involved less - or more broken - eye contact because it seems that there would be more focus on the hands, yet these women maintained consistant eye contact with each other. I found that fascinating.
I wonder if they signed to each other throughout the conversation: "What is that girl staring at?"