On the Crosstown Bus, a Dramatic Meet Cute

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Patrick William Straub was commuting to his office on a packed M14 bus in Manhattan when an older man standing near him collapsed in December 2013.

Another passenger, Chelsea Bryn Toder, saw the man fall from afar and called 911. After the bus pulled over and almost all of the other passengers dispersed, the two of them stuck around until the emergency medical technicians arrived and the man regained consciousness.

“I remember them needing our signatures, they needed witnesses,” Ms. Toder said. “I had a latte in my hand that I wasn’t really willing to give up,” she added, so she turned to Mr. Straub. “I was like, ‘Excuse me, sir, can you hold my latte so I can sign the piece of paper?’”

They left the scene together and, as they chatted on their way to the subway, Mr. Straub, who is from Washington, asked for her phone number. Shortly after, he called Ms. Toder, who grew up in Pawtucket, R.I., to ask her out on a date.

Then living in Murray Hill, Ms. Toder, who graduated from Tufts University and holds a law degree from Boston University, was working with a documentary filmmaker on a project about Rikers Island. Mr. Straub, a graduate of Trinity College, at the time was a producer at Showtime Sports and living in Manhattan’s Alphabet City neighborhood.

Though that first date happened — and led to a few more — neither felt a strong romantic spark. Instead, they soon became flirty friends who would meet up every few weeks or months to catch up over dinner.

“There was a trust that was naturally there between us, and we could tell each other things and just feel very comfortable,” Mr. Straub, 39, said.

This went on for nearly six years.

“Friends would always say to us, ‘Why aren’t you dating?’” Ms. Toder, 37, said. “There was a real intimacy there that I think that people picked up on.”

The two were still just friends when they met one evening in May 2019 to attend a Mets baseball game with Ms. Toder’s father and another friend of hers. Later that evening, Mr. Straub, Ms. Toder and her father went to meet Ms. Toder’s mother and aunt for drinks.

At that point in the night, Ms. Toder said, “it felt different, like Patrick was trying to pay for everything and do things like that to make it feel kind of date-y.”

“And then he walked me home,” she added. Soon after, they started dating again with a renewed momentum.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

“The second time we were serious,” Ms. Toder said.

By that time, Mr. Straub had moved to Dumbo, Brooklyn, and had begun his current job as a freelance video producer with a focus on boxing. (He has worked with boxers including Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter and Jake Paul.) Ms. Toder had begun working at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, where she is now a senior assistant district attorney in the homicide bureau.

For months after the pandemic set in, Ms. Toder, who was still living in Manhattan, would often scooter over the Manhattan Bridge to Mr. Straub’s apartment, where they’d spend a few days together at a time. In October 2020, on Halloween, she moved into his Dumbo apartment, where they currently live.

By May 2021, Mr. Straub knew that he wanted to propose. With a bit of help from Ms. Toder’s mother, he designed an engagement ring with a diamond that belonged to his mother, who died in 2012 and left behind two diamond earrings, one for each of her two sons.

“She told them that when they got married, they should give it to the girl that they marry,” Ms. Toder said. “So Patrick’s mom’s earring is in my ring.”

That August, he asked Ms. Toder to marry him on a hill in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“As soon as he was done, he had my whole family ready, and his family ready, to FaceTime,” Ms. Toder said.

A year later, on Aug. 6, the couple were married in the backyard of Mr. Straub’s family home in Nantucket, Mass. Nena Mass, Mr. Straub’s aunt who was appointed a Massachusetts civil marriage officiant for the day, officiated before 130 guests.

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