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Aisle Seat: Subterranean Birthday Blues

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

A birthday bouquet from the author's pal Susie, in the likeness of Janis
A birthday bouquet from the author's pal Susie, in the likeness of Janis, the author's dog (r)

December is the coolest month.

Not just because the 3rd is my birthday.

Not because Hanukkah and Christmas parties

put everyone in a better mood.

By parties, I mean small gatherings

where Covid tests are administered at the door.

One can dream.

I love this month because of snow’s promise. The pure white shadow before being trampled by people and pollution.

The 12th month brings irresistible urges to spend massive amounts of money so people love you more.


Gifts don’t make people love you more. Money does! Venmo your great-nephew cash instead of springing for a pricey video game.

December means we’re practically through with this Covid-inflicted year. 2022, begone! Good riddance!

Winter has been unpredictable these recent few years, thanks to man’s hubris in crippling Mother Nature.

The silent, white sky ballet graces rolling Central Park grounds, coats cobblestone sidewalks and coaxes sledders to nearby hills.

New York is famous for unpredictable winter weather. One moment it’s red-hands frigid, bossy

gale force winds and wintry mixes blush unmasked noses.

The next day could climb to 50°.

Whether in Central Park or the theater district,

I dress carefully after bone-cold forecasts.

First layer: cotton leggings or thermals, elastic-waisted, black harem pants, roomy enough

to contain the aforementioned layers and colorfully irreverent, calf-friendly socks.

A long sleeve turtle or crew-neck pullover with a tee-shirt topper.

But wait, there’s more!

Puffy black winter coat, faux leather black gloves, red and blue Paris scarf (bought there) and white cable knit beanie. Masked in a trusty bright purple KN95 (good for runny noses as well as warming the face!).


Treading ever more mindfully, I set off cautiously, lest freezing, slushy streets wobble me down.

Comingled aromas of teen spirit and senior angst electrify this buzzing city.

Where a micro-United Nations assembly queue up for a crosswalk sign. The brightly lit

walking man encourages a safe bon voyage from one sidewalk to the other.

Everyone’s shopping like there’s no tomorrow.

Which, according to evangelicals, might be the case.

Just getting more cynical as I move closer to the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no humbug. I don’t eschew cheerfully decorated gifts on my natal day. That’s fun!

Grateful to celebrate another year when so many friends have been hijacked by Covid.

Or just down in the dumps.

Scenes from the NYC subway

Speaking of down in the dumps, I started taking the subway again. My sister and country mice pals thought I was nutso. Maybe nutso is harsh, irresponsible was another epithet.

Good news!

Didn’t get:






No one crazy-eyed me or sidled by weirdly.

I did, however have a minor close encounter. On the station platform, waiting for a rarely on-time C train, a petite black-clad woman (giving homeless vibes) cornered me on the platform, begging for a buck.

I brushed her off firmly, walking towards harmless-looking civilians. She followed me and again requested her dollar toll.

Surprisingly, I did not get flustered or panicky. There was no fight or flight response, just determined anger.

“Stop following me!” I thundered loudly. Other people looked up and she sidled off. I found a transit worker to hover near.

My northbound train came and I boarded without incident, arriving home intact. A little shaken, but not stirred.

Deciding to ride the subway again was not a snap decision. I watch the news, read the news, inhale the news. Didn’t want to inhale rogue Covid variants by exposing myself to scads of unmasked folk.

I’m also a conscientious observer, prone to eye sweeping my surroundings at all times, everywhere I am.

I worried about climbing the steps without slipping on wet leaves or worse. What if I got in everyone’s way by walking too slowly?

What if…

I was nervous, understatement of the year.

I focused on the money we’d be saving by my using public transportation.

Now I’m confident on the stairs, especially when seeing others with more obstacles. Walkers, strollers, packages, canes, bicycles, you name it, someone’s struggling to ride mass transit.

The cars are cleaner, no visible graffiti and

no cans of diet Pepsi roll on the floor,

dribbling contents under seats. These are good signs!

And one more.

Yesterday I went to a matinee and took the C train downtown. I prudently, one-step-at-a-time made it down. I noticed a young police officer standing at the foot of the subway stairs.

It was a pleasant, much-appreciated surprise.

“It’s nice to see you,” I said, my voice mask-muffled.

“Thanks,” he said, nodding. “It’s nice to see you, too.”


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



Dec 31, 2022

It’s nice to see you too ❤️


Dec 12, 2022

Naomi's writing is words in motion. I can visualize the stories she tells.

Dec 12, 2022
Replying to

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! So glad you enjoyed it!


Dec 08, 2022

Naomi is Brillant how she portrays such a clear vision of her experiences. Happy Holidays!

Dec 12, 2022
Replying to

I really appreciate your taking the time to comment! Happy Holidays to you, as well!

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