A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office
I've read about people who get weird looks when they knit in public. I always found it odd; I mean, what's weird about knitting? It's certainly no stranger than staring slack-jawed and glassy-eyed at a handheld video game or mini DVD player, no odder than shouting with total disregard for decorum and common decency on a cell phone (bonus points if it's the walkie-talkie kind that lets everyone within earshot hear both ends of the conversation). I thought that whatever else New Yorkers may be, they were certainly too sophisticated (or at least too disinterested) to care about what anyone around them might be doing, especially if it were as nonoffensive a thing as knitting.
Apparently, I was wrong.
I've met two anti-knitters, both (oddly enough) women, both maybe in their 50s, both white. I don't know if any of that means anything more than mere coincidence, but there it is. The first was sitting next to me on the train as I headed into work. As I knitted, she turned to me and asked, "Do you have enough room?" I had just smiled (I love it when people talk to me when I knit) and opened my mouth to say that yes, I was just fine, when I realized that she wasn't actually smiling at me but more like sneering, and that her tone was decidedly sarcastic. I could hardly comprehend it. Was she trying to say my knitting was getting in her way?
I was actually quite disturbed by that. I tried to think about how I had been knitting. Had I been waving my arms wildly in her direction, maybe as I'd pulled yarn out of my skein? Had my needles gone flying out of my knitting and clipped her? Had the clicking of bamboo tips pushed her over the edge?
The second woman was even more aggressive and clearly a couple of stitches short of a full row. She sat down next to me on the subway (mind you, there were plenty of other empty seats and I was knitting when she sat down) and, after a few stops, demanded that I stop "waving those things" (I can only assume she meant knitting needles) in her face. Um...huh? I was perfectly sure that time that I hadn't absent-mindedly lost control over my needles, hadn't pulled yarn anywhere but out in front of myself...in short, I wasn't anywhere near her face. I did what any born and bred New Yorker would have done; I ignored the crazy person and kept on knitting. After a couple of more stops, she said, "Come on, give it a rest already! You've already started one fight over this."
Of course, there are the other, wonderful people I've met on the trains while I knit. I love the kids most of all...the ones who ask questions (What are you making? How do you do that?) and the ones who offer advice (You could make a small one like that for your baby....) and the ones who share their own knitting stories (I made a scarf/hat/sweater once....). I also love the men who talk knitting with me, those who knit themselves (rare) and those who have mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, wives or friends who knit. And the people who share their own talents with me: the man who learned how to sew from his mother; the artist who knitted new sleeves, borders, collars and other pieces onto vintage clothing; the mother who crocheted her daughter a peacock-blue party skirt as she commuted to and from work. I'm happy to say that these people far outnumber the knit-haters.
Good thing, too. I'm not about to give up my train knitting, and I'd hate to get in many more fights about it.