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They were obviously from out of town. All were dressed in business suits and carried identical shopping bags with a company logo emblazoned on the side. They seemed nervous when getting on the train, and several lost their balance as the train started down the track with a lurch. One man almost fell, prevented only by grabbing the arm of the man next to him.
"So I guess they don't have subways in Kansas, do they?" the first man asked the second.
"We don't have anything in Kansas except wheat fields and the occasional cow," he replied. "We don't have subways, shopping malls or stoplights."
I looked down at my hands and choked on a laugh.
"Are you laughing?" the second man asked me. "We were told that no one laughs in New York."
I laughed openly this time.
"He's serious," the first man said. "They told us that people here don't smile, that those watches aren't real Rolexes, and that the men who open the door for you after you use the automatic teller aren't just being polite."
"Well," I said, "I've only lived here a couple of years. It's been hard to break the habit."
They laughed in appreciation. A few of the other subway riders looked at the three of us out of the corners of their eyes.
"So, where are you from?" the second man asked me.
"Wow, we used to be neighbors."
"I drove through Kansas on my way here," I said shaking my finger as if in reproof, "and we had to stop at a stoplight."
The second man covered his face in mock shame and said, "Okay, I confess, we do have a stoplight. But we don't need it. It was installed to make all of the Nebraskans jealous of us."
We all laughed. The leader of the group said that they had to get off at the next stop. Both of the men shook my hand and told me it was nice to have met me.
"Enjoy your stay here in New York," I said.
"Thanks, and if you're ever in Kansas, stop by and visit. It's the third house down from the stoplight." c