Subway Encounter: Rubik’s Cube Genius

Welcome to another countdown post to my published book, Encounters with Strangers, which will be available for purchase online this month! I am so excited! More details on that to come. In the meantime, enjoy this preview below, a great moment I had on the subway going to work a few years ago:

1982 Rubik’s Cube Winners – from

Mihn Be Nimble

New York City is full of talented citizens who are mostly never properly recognized. Musicians can take their tunes to the underground to get exposure through the Music Under New York program. What about other types of artists, such as the man on the NR line? I saw the Rubik’s Cube world champ of 1982, Mihn Thai, on the subway—only he was wearing glasses, had a short afro, and wasn’t Asian.

Traveling to work, I happened to sit next to a mad-scientist-looking black man who looked fifty-five or so. He was in his own little world, mumbling to himself, but it was the clicking and clacking of the retro Rubik’s Cube that really grabbed my attention.

“H…I…T,” he whispered softly while displaying the individual letters he put together on three sides of the cube—each letter in the word he spelled was one complete color.

“Put it…back…to solid,” he continued to himself, while rotating the cube with his nimble mahogany fingers. Within one minute, each side was back to its own individual color. Unbelievable!

My mouth fell open in shock and admiration, and I turned to look at the people across the aisle to see if anyone else was watching. Newspaper reading stopped; silent back-to-work griping ceased. Everyone was wide-eyed, looking at the unsung Rubik’s Cube hero.

The Mihn Thai protégé was unaware of his audience as he continued to make symmetrical designs on each square over and over again, within seconds—flowers, shapes, even symbols. I was so enthralled that (for once in my life) I didn’t want to get off the train! When I reached my stop, I said a silent good-bye to the Rubik’s master. I had hoped I would see him again to ask him to tell me his story. Unfortunately, that day never came.

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