There are people who hate the subway. It is certainly a notorious form of transit. The popular view is that it is a urine soaked hole in the ground filled with people who will ask for your money, with or without knives in their hands. Now, that may be true, but that is only half of the allure. It also attracts possibly the most diverse ridership in the universe. Where else can you see a businessman in a fancy suit sitting next to a man who evidently uses playdough as hair gel? Nowhere, that’s where. Below are a few of my favorite authentic tales of the subway experience.
Eye patches are strange things. In movies they are the mainstays of pirates and bikers. In reality they typically adorn the heads of lazy-eyed grade-schoolers and absentminded dart spectators. I never realized the sort of upkeep necessary for folks with legitimate missing eyes, though, until a few days ago. It was then that I saw an old man with an eye patch sit down next to a pretty young woman and begin to work his way through the following ritual. He removed the eye patch, revealing the very sight that the patch was designed to conceal and protect. Let’s just say that he didn’t have a lazy eye, or else it was so lazy it decided to stay in bed that day. He then pulled out a bottle of what appeared to be Visene, inserted the tip into his little facial alcove, and proceeded to to fill ‘er up. I kid you not. The man filled it to the brim. To the unfortunate young lady’s credit, she managed to suppress the urge to run screaming from the gruesome sight. By the way, I always thought that, since the eye is spherical, so too would be the void left by its absence. Not so. Wondering just what precisely was going on in the back of that cavity will haunt my dreams for years…
Old Lady Privilege
On most subway cars the best seats are labeled with stickers imploring you to let old people sit there. (For the uninitiated, the best seats on a subway are the ones at the ends of rows. They guarantee that a maximum of one idiot will be sitting directly next to you.) Apparently the presence of these signs has gone to the heads of some of the elderly populous. Because a woman, henceforth to be known as popcorn lady, has come to the conclusion that the subway exists solely for her benefit, and hers alone. One summer day the subway was a little late. About four minutes late, in fact. After about 11 seconds of waiting, Popcorn lady began waving her bag of popcorn around. She loudly and repeatedly proclaimed, to no one in particular, that it was ?irresponsible and inconsiderate to keep me waiting in this dangerous heat.? Now, at the time I was just about 350 lbs. I know a little something about not handling heat well. I didn’t even have a trickle of sweat rolling down my back yet, and I am the canary in the coal mine of perspiration. The heat was uncomfortable, perhaps, but dangerous? No. The rant continued in a tight little circle of about three sentences as an employee walked up. She tried to burn a hole through him with her old lady stare, but he just shrugged and said that there wasn’t any official reason for the delay. She upped the intensity of the stare and demanded he do something. Presumably he was supposed to hop down on the tracks and haul the train out like a mule. When it finally DOES appear, Popcorn Lady stared down the engineer, as though he was sitting back there with his thumb up his butt just to spite her. She managed to wedge in one last tirade against the whole of public transportation to the group of rail yard workers who had to be let off between stations to fix the tracks that had delayed the previous train by, oh, say four minutes. In all of her complaining and indignation never did she even seem to become aware of the 199 other people who were similarly affected. Particularly not the pregnant lady who had to stand so that Popcorn Lady’s popcorn could have a seat next to her. I swear, in MY day, old people showed their youngers some respect! Get off my lawn!
College is a time for learning. Not just about the course material, either. Sometimes you learn about the world, too. For instance, I was present during a college field trip when half of my classmates learned what crazy looks like. A valuable lesson to be sure. This particular subway ride was into NYC to see an off Broadway production of ?The Chocolate Soldier? (This, for some reason, was deemed an essential part of my Computer Engineering curriculum.) So we hopped on the good ol’ PATH train. There, in the same car as all of us bright eyed collegiates, was an African American fellow who had evidently taken more than his share of illicit substances in his life. About half way through the trip he proceeded to sing a little song. Most of the words seemed to be made up of Hs, Rs, Us, Ns, and Gs in various combinations. The chorus, though, was clear as a bell. ?White People!? And so the serenade progressed:
Hrrrnrnnngggnggngnnguuuuuunnnnn…. WHITE PEOPLE. Huuuuunnnnggggrrnrnrnrn white peeeeople. RRRRNNNNGGGGGG White people.
Most of the people in the subway car, or at least most of the people who seemed to be the subject of the song, huddled together for fear of getting crazy on them. Not me. For some reason I spent the whole ride desperately trying, and failing, to stifle laughter. He didn’t seem to mind.
That ought to do it for now. I hope I have convinced you to spend some time on your local subway. It will provide you with hours of entertainment, get you where you need to go, and introduce you to new and exciting people who you will probably want to kill. What more could you want from life? Do you have any good stories of wonder and intrigue on public transit? Well join up and share. THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW!