“I think people are waiting for something to happen over there,” Michael said, looking behind us. He was visiting from Kentucky, and we were sitting on a step in Union Square, eating raspberries and people-watching.
I turned around and indeed, everyone seemed to be standing in expectation, intent on groups of people holding pillows. Other than that strange accessory, the pillow-holders seemed to be part of the crowd, chatting casually and enjoying a Saturday evening in Manhattan.
I couldn’t help a sudden flashback to summer-camp season, waiting anxiously for the bus to come as I clutched my pillow. Clearly, a charter bus wasn’t going to pull up in the middle of the square, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In NYC, you never know.
As it turned out, my flashback to summer camp wasn’t completely off-base, though it had nothing to do with boarding a bus. Suddenly a couple of the pillow-holders began swinging at each other. Then others joined in and it started becoming a great pillow fight between friends and strangers.
Michael and I stood up to get a closer look as people began to crowd in, probably wishing they also had pillows and could join in on the fun. Cameras were snapping, pillow fighters were laughing, stander-bys (like me) were enjoying the display of childlike fun, before the police started blowing whistles and predictably shouting “Break it up!” after about 30 seconds.
I’m disappointed that such an innocent and fun activity was cut short. Mostly because it can’t be very out of the ordinary in NYC, or even in Union Square.
The sense of community and camaraderie in this city is something I will never cease to appreciate. It’s why I wander over to 14th Street on Saturday or Sunday each week with no particular plans. The people provide a full day’s worth of entertainment, whether it’s a pillow fight, two elderly women who sit on either side of me and strike up a conversation, or the passion of the political protesters — many of whom are passionate about odd conspiracies or things I’ve never heard of — who try to hand me pamphlets as I walk by.