Sharing a laugh

“Brief Encounters” are readers’ narrations of the funny, surreal and bizarre of everyday life in Vienna.

Columns | Vienna Review | June 2012

It was the end of a long day, as I boarded a relatively full U-Bahn. Usually, I’ll take a book out on public transport. Aside from anything else, it saves me from having to endure that favourite public pastime of the Viennese in transit: staring shamelessly at other passengers.

But I couldn’t find my book, so indulged in a little people-watching myself.

At the next stop, a man wheeled an office chair onto the train. As the door banged shut, he sat down, the chair’s back against the closed door.

I looked around, and few people seemed to notice. One old man sitting in the last booth was laughing silently to himself, shoulders shaking. He caught my eye, and winked. In the seats across the corridor, a girl about my age was laughing too, although not as silently.

The three of us smiled and laughed, oblivious to all the other passengers’ stares, who in turn seem oblivious to anything funny, and the sitter was oblivious to all of it.  At the next stop, he stood up and wheeled his chair out of the carriage.

When I got home, I found my book had been in my bag the whole time.

I no longer cared.

Caroline Lovejoy

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