The Elephant in the Room

Tonight, I experienced something so intriguing, I had to share it.

Girl on Subway

While riding home on a crowded subway, I observed an empty seat across from me with a $5 bill on it. Some people looked at the money, and quickly looked away. Others pretended not to notice it at all. Although many people were standing, the seat with the money on it remained empty. After a few minutes, I started to look around, amazed that nobody had said anything, or pocketed it on their way out. Was this being filmed with a hidden camera for one of those “What would you do?” television shows? Were people so afraid of being negatively judged that they didn’t want to have anyone see them take the money? Were we all secretly hoping that a homeless person would come along and we could self-rightously hand it to them, and experience a feel good moment?

At one point a man boarded the train, saw the empty seat and the $5 bill, and perched uncomfortably on the edge of the bench, so as not to touch or acknowledge the money’s presence.  He seemed relieved as he exited the train, $5 bill still intact on the seat. Again, people boarded the train and discreetly ignored the money, leaving it, and it’s coveted rush hour seat alone.

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Like the proverbial elephant in the room, the money was the obvious issue that nobody wanted to be the one to acknowledge. In an anonymous city where people rush from place to place, and  a $5 bill is as important to some as a dirty penny laying in a gutter, and to others, their only chance for some food, it’s existence played a big role in this evening’s turn of events.
What do you think was going on? Did someone discreetly pocket it, when the crowd thinned out, or is it still riding comfortably on a seat in the #1 Broadway local? What would you have done?
Let us know in the comments below.

photos: Glasshouse Images

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