There is perhaps no romantic fairy tale so potently woven into the minds of my single friends than the story of two soul mates who met by chance dozens of feet underground, in the New York City subway system. As mundane as it so often is, we hold on to this glimmer of hope that perhaps this commute will change everything. That little phrase “You never know” (oh, and this incredibly heartwarming article from the New York Times) is always lingering in the back of our minds.
The public transportation meet-cute isn’t just a New York thing, though. When I reached out to about a dozen friends living all over the country to find out if they’d ever met someone during their commute, nearly everyone had a fun or fateful story to share. And guess what—one even ended in marriage.
I found stories of successful romantic connections that came about in the most ordinary circumstances . . . and what you can learn from them!
THE SITUATION: A SHARED CAB OR UBER POOL
I’ll kick things off with a story of my own. Over the holidays last year, I called an uberPOOL for a ride home from a bar. I hopped in and found myself in the backseat next to a blond guy in a nice suit. We chatted throughout the drive, and just as we reached his stop, he asked for my number. A few weeks later we had a great dinner date at a charming little spot in my neighborhood.
One of my girlfriends met a guy she dated for a year (!!) in a taxi in the Hamptons. It was a busy night toward the end of summer, and cabs were scarce (and expensive!), so she and her friends agreed to share theirs with a guy heading the same direction. Squished in the backseat with nineties tunes playing, she found herself rapping along in perfect sync with the guy sitting next to her. Intense traffic kept them in the car for more than thirty minutes, and by the end of it, she’d given him her number, and he promised to call Tuesday. Call he did. She knew that if he could endure her late-night taxi karaoke and still want to go out, she’d better give him a shot.
THE TAKEAWAY: SAVING MONEY CAN LEAD TO ROMANCE
Romance aside, I have met some really nice and interesting people in shared rides—especially on the way home from the airport. Apps such as Via, Lyft, and Uber all allow you to split the cost of a ride with someone who’s going your direction. I make a point to say hello to anyone I share a ride with and never talk on the phone. (That’s shared-ride etiquette 101, by the way.) Conversation starters in a shared ride are so, so easy. From the airport, try, “Do you live here or are you visiting?” If you’re on your way to work, why not ask, “Do you know of a good coffee place in this neighborhood?”
THE SITUATION: JUST DOING YOUR THING ON THE SUBWAY
A guy friend of mine in Chicago who always takes the L to work kept catching the eye of the same girl on his morning commute—they were doing “the smile and look away” thing throughout the ride. She was sitting near the door, and he hoped she’d be getting off at his stop. But when he figured out she wasn’t, and he was running out of time—he made his move: As he was getting off the train, he handed her his business card and said, “I’ve never done this before, but text me!” It worked, and they went on a few dates.
A female friend of mine here in New York pulled the same move on the subway. “I saw a very attractive guy on the subway, and I used my fashion blog as an excuse to walk up to him,” she explained. “I told him I’d love to feature him (he wasn’t even particularly fashionable) and gave him my business card, told him to email me, and then walked off the train. I figured if he was single or thought I was cute, he’d reach out. He didn’t—but I still thought it was worth a try and would totally do it again.”
Another guy who lived in my building in the East Village a couple years ago met his girlfriend on the bus in Brooklyn. He struck up a bit of small talk with a girl he described as “a babe,” and they chitchatted for about fifteen minutes. When her stop came and she went to get off the bus, he initially just let her go. But in a swell of romance, he leapt up and asked for her number just as she was descending the stairs. He held up the bus for a full minute to make the exchange happen, and it was well worth inconveniencing the other riders—they dated for close to a year!
And finally, the best story ever, as told by the woman it happened to:
“I met my now husband on the subway—at the 8th Street/NYU stop, to be exact. It was early March 2015, and he and I had the same morning commute to work, so we would see each other about every other day on the subway platform. I’m not one of those people that feels comfortable confronting strangers; however, with him, I felt comfortable enough to smile. (Maybe it was his good looks!) It was a couple of weeks of making eye contact and smiling on the train before he said something like, ‘Hey, we have been seeing each other a lot here.’ I was caught off guard by his attractive Swedish accent and agreed to give him my phone number. We went on our first date the following Sunday to a French tapas place near Washington Square Park and have been together ever since. I was planning on moving back to Dallas that May, [but] chance flirting on the subway kept both of us in New York a year longer—followed by a marriage proposal and a wedding after that. Now I always tell people, you never know where you might meet someone!”
THE TAKEAWAY: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! (AND ALWAYS HAVE A BUSINESS CARD ON HAND)
If you want to open yourself up to the possibility of subway flirting, you have to rediscover your sense of optimism, even when your efforts don’t pan out. (This book helped me a lot with that element.) Also, be willing to flirt back. The key to getting the ball rolling and letting this guy know that his interest in you is welcome is in the eye contact (as the stories above have illustrated). Hold his gaze juuust a little bit longer than feels natural. Smile. Take out your earbuds. Have your business card in your bag at all times.
Photo Credit: BOM Photography