About a week ago, as I was on my way to work, I had a brief encounter with a man who declared he was the King of the World. That was how he had identified himself. Our paths might not have crossed but for my fortuitous boarding of the wrong train at 34th Street. Thinking that I was transferring to the D or B train, I got on the F train (which apparently had been re-routed from its track assignment) and only realized my mistake after it had gone a few stops. Thankfully I was able to work my way back to 34th Street and to connect with a B train that had just pulled into the station. This was just the train I needed to take me to my 72nd Street stop.
The train took about five minutes before moving off. Just as the conductor announced the closing of the doors, a man entered the train, positioned himself just across from where I was standing, and loudly, imperiously, and with great aplomb announced to the passengers in the car, "Your King is here!" Following his announcement he began to wave (with exaggerated flourish) to his subjects, all of whom ignored him, perhaps considering him just another crazy person. I, on the other hand, took a somewhat amused interest in him, deciding that I would take him on his terms. He repeated his announcement a few more times in between repositioning two hefty bags which he carried with him. Still he was ignored, but thankfully, our monarch appeared not to be of the sort to punish his subjects for their lack of respect, so we were spared any potential wrath on his part.
The King was stocky, of average height, and dressed in a blue sweater and grey pants. His dark face had a pleasantness about it. It was a stark contrast to the dour demeanor of the passengers on the train. He happened to glance across at me as I stood, hands in my pockets, leaning against the train door. "Take your hands out of your pockets," he snapped. "Show some respect. You are in the presence of the King." By this time the train had pulled into the Columbus Circle station. "I do beg your pardon, your highness," I replied with smile and promptly took my hands out of my pockets. I followed up with, "Of which kingdom are you King?" He flashed me a stern look and responded, "The King of the World. I am the king of the World," and then exited the train (presumably to take care of his royal duties for the day). As I continued on to my stop, I pondered how that inadvertent detour caused my life and that of the King's to briefly intersect. He believed that he was King of the World, and for a brief moment I supported his belief.
[photo art by Ric Couchman]