Monday, August 31, 2009

The Satisfactions of Stillness

As you probably know, I ride the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island and then back again almost every day. It is usually very noisy on the ferry. Among the sounds I often hear are the chattering of hundreds of tourists, boisterous natives arguing loudly about some controversial issue, the ferry's chugging engines, foghorns blaring periodically, the ripples in the harbor bumpingly resisting the surging boat.

Yesterday, however, as the boat was very slowly positioning itself to return to its slip in Manhattan, and its engines had been reduced to little more than a murmur, I was suddenly aware of how absolutely hushed everything had become. For one thing, I heard no voices at all, in part because there were so few people on board and virtually all of them sat alone in some remote corner of the deck. The usually ubiquitous crew was nowhere to be seen, no walkie talkies were barking, the loud speaker system was silent. Outside the air was utterly still; the water in the harbor did not crawl at all. All that I heard, even when I strained to listen, was the creaking of the wooden walls and pillars of this old boat, some version of which I ride every day. Those creaks made me think, not of age, but of venerability, of a machine that was designed to do its job reliably and dutifully, day in, day out. Somehow, there was something comforting and endearing in that sole, lingering groan, which seemed to say all this may take its toll but it is good, solid, uncomplicated and absolutely necessary work.

1 comment:

  1. Nice thought. We don't often think about infrastructure (to our peril in some cases)but if there was ever a place absolutely dependant on it, it's New York.
    This post also makes me think about the personal relationships that support us all. Some of the most important are the ones that simply go along in the background, doing the 'absolutely necessary work' that enriches our lives.
    Something to think about in Madison Square.