After my run in with "the probable mobster" I felt bolder today. I printed a batch of new cards and even determined to make an attempt on my morning commute. Folks don't like to be bothered on their way to work though, and the general pre-office grimace graced the face of many a fellow straphanger.

Looking for potential portraitees, I saw a dark woman with bright, piercing eyes, a chiseled nose and full lips strap-hanging just out of reach. (And once you find your spot - comfy or not - on an AM train, you stick with it, so I didn't make any moves.) I thought maybe I could edge nearer to her when we left the train, but she moved toward another door and I didn't see her again.

So on tonight's commute back home (8pm? Maybe the night crowd's a bit easier than 8am?) I thought now's my chance. I've got a pocketfull of cards and people to hand them to! I scanned the car, seeing if someone would catch my eye. I found more than a few, so I thought what if I just asked the whole car? I walked to the middle of the car, stood there, looked around and practiced these words in my head:
Hi folks, sorry to interrupt you and I know you don't want to be bothered (Errgh, everybody says that...) But I'm an artist and I'm working on a project to paint portraits on metrocards of people I meet on the subway. I'm just beginning, and this is my first time, ever, making a subway announcement. (A slight pause here?) I have cards in my hand with my website listed on them, and if you are interested in being a part of this project and having your portrait painted on a metrocard, I would be happy to give you one.
I stayed there, in the middle, hanging on to the pole, watching the clock... 8:08, 8:08! Thinking, This is good. Just practice this so that when you actually do say it, you can do so with confidence. Mind you, I have no problem with public speaking, well, except in subway cars.

When the train cruised through the station right before my stop, I began to quietly mouth my speech to check the timing. But when the doors opened and it was time for me to get out, I still had the cards in my hand. Maybe I'll be bolder, tomorrow.


  1. You can do it, Charis! It's an awesome project - I have full confidence that you'll see it through and it will be well worthwhile and appreciated.

  2. I wonder if anyone else had something to say on that car...It's funny how we imagine barriers. I suppose that is a necessity of civil society. "good fences make good neighbors"

    Yet how exciting it would be to get some response. One of my speech students mentioned a Bill Cosby quote when we were discussing stage fright. "Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it."

    The scope of your project is kind of like fishing. The majority of your time is spent waiting and baiting and besides that a lake is mostly water with a just a tiny percentage of its space inhabited by fish. So why do people spend days and dollars on it? I'm not a fisher. But when a fish in that big lake/ocean bites YOUR hook there is nothing else in the whole world to think about. On the other hand, experience fishers seem to know where and when the fish are biting. You're going to get great at this if you stick with it.


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