Back in 1961 a musical called Subways are for Sleeping with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Jule Styne debuted on Broadway.
Last week the phrase took on new meaning as a photo snapped on a New York City subway train went viral on the Internet. As reported on ABC-TV Eyewitness News, a young African-American man wearing a hoodie fell asleep on the shoulder of a man wearing a yarmulke and continued to snooze for a half hour as the train rumbled along.
Isaac Theil, a retired accountant, was headed home on the Q subway train to Queens when the passenger sitting next to him rested his head on Theil's shoulder. Sensing a New York moment, an unidentified photographer captured the image and uploaded it to the Internet.
As Reuven Blau reported in the New York Daily News,
Another rider was amazed at the scene — a black man sleeping on the shoulder of a white man in a yarmulke — so he gently asked if he wanted help to wake the slumbering straphanger.
"He had a long day so let him sleep. We've all been there," Theil responded.
The other rider captured the moment with a quick cell phone picture that he then posted online with a brief explanation.
The picture and caption has gone viral on the Internet, with 1.3 million “likes” and 172,563 shares on Facebook. It’s also received a whopping 228 comments on reddit, where it was originally posted.
"There's still hope in humanity," said Facebook user Michael Bartley, whose comment alone got 13,583 likes.
"I don't see a black man and a Jewish man — I see two people," added Georgina Gainsford-De Giogrio.
Theil, an Orthodox Jew, is surprised by all the attention — and there was a lot of it, thanks to social media.
"I just kept steady so he would be able to sleep," said Theil, who had been returning home from watching his granddaughter on the Upper East Side. "It wasn't easy to do because he was dead weight."
And the reddit user who started it all is amazed how it has become an international sensation.
"It really wasn't about the ethnicity of the people," he told The News, asking to remain anonymous. "It was just more that New Yorkers, especially in the subway, don't want to touch people or have them get in their personal space. That was striking to me and made me smile and I thought was a very nice gesture."
Alas, the unidentified man wasn't able to doze off the whole ride because Theil had to exit the train at Newkirk Ave.
"I didn't want to scare him awake," Theil recalled. "I turned around to look at him and he was dazed."Enjoy!
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