It was as if he had vomited Chanukah onto a ball of yarn. It was beautiful.
(Disclaimer: I’m Jewish, so I’m allowed to be snarky about holiday overachievers. Like how Christians make fun of the family that turns its house into a to-scale replica of the North Pole.)
A man wearing such a sweater was probably fascinating, so I very subtly yanked my earbud out of my ear and stared at him unblinkingly. (I don’t think he saw me, though; he was a few seats away. We were on a New York City bus, and honestly, on those buses you don’t notice anything that happens more than a meter away unless it involves a drunk guy.) He nonchalantly pulled—wait for it—a half-knitted, similar-to-the-sweater-in-its-cluelessly-tasteless-design scarf out of the tote bag that I hadn’t yet noticed because I was too busy ogling his sweater. And he started knitting. Y’know, normal day, using public transportation to catch up on the latest Martha Stewart tutorial.
Sweater Dude immediately began to chat with an utterly unremarkable woman (who may have been quite remarkable on her own, but in comparison to Sweater Dude, looked like a doily in comparison to a tapestry). “I’m wearing this sweater so I can take photos with it,” he explained without slowing the astonishing pace at which he maneuvered his knitting needles. “In Times Square, in front of the Empire State building… Everywhere. Chanukah sweaters all over New York.”
He dumped out similar gems as the bus meandered down Seventh Avenue:
“I have two Chanukah sweaters. I wear at least one per day each day of Chanukah. In fact, I have sweaters for every holiday.”
“And I don’t like coats. I mean, you have to take them off if you get too hot, but then you’re too cold… And you always have to carry them everywhere…” He pulled up his sweater to reveal another one exactly like it in garishness but slightly different in design. “That’s why I dress in layers.”
“I run a Facebook page with different outfit designs. Recently, I made a dress—well, it’s a dress, but it has a top half and a bottom half, and it’s white with a black stripe down it. Yeah, everyone loves it.”
(I’d like to take this moment to remind you that his self-made sweater used every color in the rainbow at least twice, including some combinations that shouldn’t be legal.)
Over the course of about twenty blocks, everyone on the bus became enraptured by Sweater Dude. I can only compare the experience to when an amateur a cappella group leaps into your train car and starts harmonizing, except people who are subjected to a cappella groups always radiate disinterest and I can assure you that disinterest was the antonym of any adjective I’d use to describe my bus. And everyone sighed in unison when Sweater Dude got up to leave and take photos around New York. But, as with any performance, he made a grand exit, shaking the hand of the unremarkable woman and descending down the bus steps with a flourish. “I’m friending you on Facebook!” the unremarkable woman called after him with a unicorns-sculpted-from-cotton-candy grin.
After he left, the silence was tangible. I don’t think any of us knew how quiet the bus had been without him until he was no longer there, utterly confident in his ability to just be incredible. But I can tell you that I felt a connection with everyone who was left. We’d all gained a new hero. And that doesn’t happen easily in New York.