Observing a Traveler

Something interesting happened as I was waiting on Sunday for a train at Penn Station in Manhattan. The experience was so amusing and so utterly revealing that I still can’t dislodge it from my mind. A lady was sitting across from me in the waiting room reading what turned out to be a copy of Norman Podhoretz’s latest ravings on the subject of Islamofascism. My fellow-traveler looked like someone in her late fifties, was recognizably Jewish, and given the size of the baubles on her bejeweled fingers, seems to have benefited from her husband’s decision to trade on the margins. Since my wife had dragged me to the station about an hour and a half before our train was departing for Harrisburg, I had an exceedingly long time to notice the changing expressions on the lady’s face. When she first began reading Pod, she looked bored, but as she moved on in the text, her expression became increasingly agitated. By the time she left to catch her train, she seemed overwhelmed with anxiety. Perhaps she had just discovered that the world is crawling with Islamofascists, who are about to pounce on her and her kin. From observing this lady as she read, it became apparent that Pod has a considerable following. It has drop-dead money but is easily aroused to panic. Of course I had sensed that before, but as I sat in the terminal observing my fellow-traveler, my impression was confirmed one more time. Now it is possible that the lady was Italian, and not Jewish, and looked increasingly upset because she thought she had missed her train.  But somehow I doubt that was the case or that I had sized up the situation wrongly.

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