Gromko Igrait Horovitz

Horovitz was a little man, a little man in size, but a giant of an unusual ability in an obvious, but somehow secret and understated way.

He had a way of speaking that left one in wonder.

Horovitz was a conductor on the Russian railroad. In early afternoons, he could be seen traversing a passenger car, walking the aisle from front to back, occasionally touching the backrest of a seat to steady himself as the train rocked around a curve beneath him, dressed in black vest and trousers, a bowtie closing the top of his white oxford shirt, a black conductor's cap on his head, puncher in hand.

Horovitz seemed quiet to people who didn't know him very well. He seem unfathomable to those who did know him, better. To the passengers on the train, he seemed very businesslike in an ordinary way, taking and punching tickets and answering questions about destinations and arrival times, quietly and politely. When he was done in a car, he would be gone until the next stop.

On this particular Sunday, when the trains ran half-schedules, the cars were sparsely occupied. In the back on the left (looking backward along the train) slumped a youngish man with black, tousled hair, three day old stubble and black and white pinstripe trousers. He carried a thin, black leather attache case with no buckle, only a wide strap.

Outside, at a stop, one could see in the grey, overcast day a mother and daughter across the street, on the sidewalk in front of a large glass storefront display window, dressed in matching red with red shoes and red hats. The greyness of the day made their red seem redder, accents of color on a grey day. The mother faced left toward her daughter, while her daughter faced the display window, turned toward her mother at a slight angle and looking in.

A car went by, momentarily blocking the view. Then, the mother was bending forward, talking to her daughter, smiling and pointing at the display window. The daughter was looking up at her mother, listening with a smile of excited expectancy.

The train jolted and started to move away from the scene with the mother and daughter, who were lost to view as they drifted past the right edge of the window next to the seats.

Horovitz stood by the door and waited while the new passengers seated themselves. He did that, instead of punching their tickets when they got on, to allow everybody to board as quickly as possible. Then, he went down the aisle, taking and punching tickets and answering a question from one passenger, a woman in her 50s with a Chanel handbag and a book, and another question from another passenger, an elderly man with a cane, who sat in upright dignity.

Horivitz was a Listener. That's why he seemed so quiet.

In fact, what was odd, and missed by most, is that environments got quieter as he entered them.

The way it was on the train, was this:

Trains are not quiet places. They are noisy places, places of sudden movements and jolts and rumbling vibrations, sudden sounds -- less at station stops, of course, though even there, trains are not quiet places, just less noisy places.

In the transit between stations, as the train picked up speed, things got noisier and the vibration through the floor and seats got stronger.

Horovitz would go from car to car through sliding doors at the ends of each car. Upon sliding the first door open, noise from the outside of the train would get inside. Then, the first door would slide closed with a rolling sound and a thump, and the first car would get quieter, again. But not as quiet as when Horovitz was there. Because the noise level had increased as he opened the door, and then decreased as he closed it, behind him, the change in noise level masked the fact that the car was indeed noisier after he left. Perhaps people attributed the increased noise level to the location of the train on its route to the next station.

On the car Horovitz had just entered, the opposite happened. First, the noise level increased as he slid open the door, then it decreased as the door rolled and thumped closed, behind him -- and the car was quieter, than before. Much quieter. Some people might have thought, in topsy turvy fashion, that they had just entered or come out of a tunnel. But there was no tunnel. There was only Horovitz at the center of a field of silence, most silent.

The vibrations coming through the floor and seats were softer, soothing, as were the occasional jolts sideways, somehow reassuring.

This would last until Horovitz left the car for the next one -- and so on down the line to the end.

The reason this happened is that, in his work, Horovitz needed to talk and listen, a lot, and he had no patience for asking people to repeat questions and having to shout answers. So, he would Listen to the noises of the car around him and the noises of the train, and absorb them into himself and contain them, feel the vibrations, all, and dissolve them in listening until he felt Silence surface and absorb the noise into a soothing, deepening silence. When he did that, the car around him got quieter, people who made conversation loudly got quieter, and his job got much more pleasant.

Occasionally, someone would notice that things had suddenly gotten quieter when talking with Horovitz and then suddenly gotten louder when they had finished and he had gone. They had clearly heard every word he had said and had themselves gotten their words across, easily.

This had happened with the unkempt young man in the back, who was left in a state of wonder, tapping his attache case with his fingertips and looking up and to the left, where Horovitz was leaving the car.

Horovitz smiled as he slid open the door to go into the next car.





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