The L Word.

Yesterday, aboard the L train heading towards Union Square a fight broke out between two hipsters. This was something different. Normally, people may seem agitated and shuffle their feet, maybe they’ll poke the person with an elbow or a knee. Rarely are words exchanged. Just nasty looks and a whole lot of passive-aggressive fueled huffing and puffing.

As I was standing on the platform waiting for the L at Graham avenue a young girl walked up and stood DIRECTLY in front of me. There wasn’t too much room to stand in front of me without falling into the dumpster juice below, but she managed to swing it.There aren’t many things that annoy me more than cutting me off if I have been waiting for whatever means of public transport long before you sauntered in. I was infuriated. But I embraced it and let it go. Instead of confronting her or pushing her into the path of the oncoming subway, I decided to silently judge her.

HipstHer was wearing a shiny blue shirt that was tied up in the front. She wore those long dangly earrings, some glittery facial makeup and two non-matching pink barrettes which screamed for help against her jet black hair. For a skirt, she wore a torn white thing, Flashdance style, and for shoes, a pair of cowboy boots. One might say I had a lot to work with.

I just stared at the back of her bobbing head. Her iPod was just loud of enough for a normal person to hear. But considering my deafness and all, to my dismay, I was unable to hear what she was listening to. But I’m going to guess it was Guns and Roses or Chicago.

Once the train arrived and we got on board, we both found positions wherever we could find empty bars to hold onto. The L train is ALWAYS pickle packed with people. There isn’t a day that goes by where one isn’t irked by their commute on the L train. But it’s best to let it go. Otherwise, you’re in a for a world of endless frustration. She stood in the center, near the middle bar. I leaned against the door that separates the trains. (You’re not supposed to do that. But I do. You’re also not supposed to jump in line. But people do. I have submitted a proposal to my editor about a book I’m writing called “Public Transportation: Practicing Proper Etiquette On Board, or Simply Striving To Not Be a Douchebag.” Though, the word Douchebag might have to change.)

We rode like this for two stops. Then, at Bedford Avenue, another pack of humans got on. (Sometimes it amazes me that folks won’t wait for the next train. There really WILL be one behind that one. I promise.) They had a harder time trying to find safe places to stand. Usually the taller people push their hands up onto the ceiling, dangling there like human stalactites, they sway like massive green sea plants that way with every new wave. The shorter people hope for the best. That’s all they can do. But to be honest, it’s usually so crowded one can’t move or fall anyway. The rest of the crowd will hold them up. (For those of you who live in the burbs, our packed subway is your traffic jam. It’s that frustrating and that uncomfortable.)

He got on at Bedford with a friend. Had the scene taken place at a bar, HipstHer and HipstHim may have had a chance at a night of drunk sex. But we were subway dwellers and, for most, banging the person next to you is not the first thing on your mind. (Though, I have heard about sickos who like to rub up against girls while commuting on a busy train. For them, I sort of wish guns were legal. And I hate guns. But for a minute sometimes, I might like to shoot them.)

HipstHer didn’t like that HipstHim was crowding her space. So she began to shove him with her elbow over again. How do I know this? Because eventually words were spoken and the two had it out, right there on the busy subway.

“The fucking train is packed. Where do you want me to GO?! WHERE?!!”

“Just move.”

“I can’t fucking move. Look at this place. LOOK AT IT!! IT’S PACKED! You shut up.”

“Don’t tell me to shut up!”

“Stop slipping me your elbow. You’re acting like a moron.”

This went on for the duration of the flight. A flight we were all on together leading us to places none of us really wanted to go. In the heat, beneath our stinky city, I found myself surrounded by people who, if the stale subway air blew just right, gave off the faint odor of sour morning breath coupled with the stronger smell of Crest, Aim or Aquafresh. They barked and barked like fat seals in hipster clothing and came to no real conclusion. Meanwhile, the rest of us turned up our music or buried our faces deeper and deeper into our newspapers and NYT best sellers. It was going to be yet another glorious day.

52 Comments

  1. It’s hard to compare public transportation with even a traffic jam. Because even if I’m stuck in traffic for hours on end it’s just me in my car with my AC and radio. I have space, a clean seat and I know when the last time I showered was.

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  2. I loved this post, M.! I cannot stand crowds, but you are right…fighting it just makes it so much worse.

    The writing in this piece is perfect…this is one of my favorites now. “dangling there like human stalagmites”; “barked and barked like fat seals in hipster clothing”…a lot of great lines.

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  3. Very.

    Traffic jams are much more infuriating then packed public transport, though. Miles and miles of single passenger cars with their self-satisified and pompous meat cargo belching shit into the sky, dreaming of the ability to careen heedlessly along in their tin killing machines.

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  4. packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes

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  5. Charlie, exactly. We are kind of like that. It’s hard to not compare us humans to dangling chimps when we hold the bars above, armpits standing there open-mouthed. The men are closer, because of the hair and all.
    In the summer months I sort of wish the bars were lower, Because there are a slew of folks who really don’t need to be putting their arms above their heads in this heat. But what do I know. (Note to self: Add this into the request section of the book.)

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  6. holy crap i’d love to read your book.

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  7. I don’t really have a book. No one would actually PAY me to write this shit. haha

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  8. “They barked and barked like fat seals in hipster clothing and came to no real conclusion.”

    Killer.

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  9. That is fucking awesome. I have to disagree that people wouldn’t pay you to write a book about it. Hipsters would buy it and the cycle would be complete!

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  10. Dude. Those kids wouldn’t last a second in the South. People don’t tolerate a lot of back talk, and you most certainly could not pull off poking someone aggressivly with your elbow. I’m trying to picture a group of rednecks or Southern gals/boys in that scenario. Owie. :D

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  11. sounds like you need a copy of “The Hipsters Handbook” all williamsburgers and greenpointians should have one.

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  12. Your barking seals line reminded me of your days in SF. I love it. And the weird references to the “underground scene” you encountered there compare interestingly to this (literally) underground scene. I like this post very much. Whether you know it or not, I think you have a lot of elements of an interesting book already.

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  13. see how the brutal realization of ones horrible latte influences the delicate balance of existance on the L-train in “When Hipsters Go Bad,” tonight at 11:00

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  14. i think your book should be more international hows this title sound…………”Mind the Gap Douchebag”

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  15. Ha! Greg. I love you.

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  16. Am I alone in liking HipstHim’s responses? “You shut up!” Beautiful. And while “moron” isn’t as sexy a word as “douchebag”, I would’ve laughed out loud at “moron”. Were I the observer and not the moron, that is.

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  17. I love the word Moron. It seems much crueler than say Dickhead or Asshole. I am not sure why.

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  18. Tom Cruise is a moron.

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  19. He’s also an asshole. You were dead on about that one, baby. Actually, I imagine Tom Cruise has an awful lot of experience with his own asshole. As well as numerous other Boyientologists’ sphincters.
    Ah, Sphincter. Another favorite.

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  20. Moron is a great word. I also like “retard” and “cocksucker.”

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  21. i absolutely believe you’ll have an editor soon if you don’t already.

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  22. There are differences among these terms. For example, landlords, I have found, are morons, while insurance companies are cocksuckers, and contract staffing recruiters retards. I knew one landlord who wasn’t really a moron, but he was a total asshole. And I think any cocksucking editor who reads your blog and hasn’t given you a book deal is a goddamned moron. And fat people are lazy. Just thought I’d throw that in.

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  23. I think moron is a perfectly wonderful term to describe anyone behind a phone and working in “customer” service. However, they work for cocksuckers. Those of us who believe them when they say they’re actually going to CANCEL the San Francisco phone number and then get slapped with a bill well above 200 dollars are, in fact, retards.

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  24. Really? ANYONE on a phone and working in customer service? Anyone?

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  25. I once proposed printing off a bunch of “Subway Etiquette for Dummies” handbooks and passing them out to people on the trains who I found to be in violoation of common sense. But I couldn’t afford to print that many.

    My favorites are the pole molestors, you know, the people who do a full-body lean on the pole, so you have nowhere to hold onto it unless you can reach above their head? I like to come at them jazz-hands style, right towards the facial region. They usually move. If they don’t, oops…I’m sorry I clawed you across your face, mister, did I interrupt your afterglow with the pole?

    I like the terms ass-hat and fuck-tard.

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  26. not anyone. no. Just the nameless faces.
    Sian is totally exempt from any name-calling or anything negative for that matter.
    Sherri, I know the people you speak of. I don’t like the people who play really loud video games on their phone, either. What’s up with that shit? can’t they mute it at least? Damn them all.

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  27. general rudeness: As a person who works in retail I particularly enjoy people who, instead of starting their sentences with hello or excuse me, Choose simply to blurt out just the name of what they are looking for. Like this.
    Customer: Ketchup?!!
    Sian: Hi.
    C: ketchup.
    S: I’m sorry?
    C: Ketchup.
    S: Oh! are you looking for the ketchup?
    C: (looking slightly confused/uncomfortable) Yes please.
    S: right over here!
    S: (only in mind) You fucking Twat!!

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  28. that’s funny. I can totally picture it. Also, Twat = good word.

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  29. Back in my food service days, I started writing a freebie handbook for UGA students new to the whole adulthood thing. The local paper (Flagpole) already put out a primer for the newbies with info such as how to pay a gas bill and where to buy aspirin and which clubs had live music, etc. I planned to slip my guide into theirs. For those who know me, though, you can imagine that following their tone was hard for me. I can’t say that ‘moron’ had a place in my guide. I just couldn’t quite be that… gentle.

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  30. Tonight, on the way home from work, I realized the perfect way to torment any women who happend to rub me the wrong way on the train.

    “Excuse me, miss?”
    “Yeah?”
    [whispering] “you have blood on the seat of your pants.”

    Instant. Panic. Total. Embarrassment.

    Muahahahahahahaha. I’m evil.

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  31. Sherri, I must meet you.

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  32. I love your tales of dumpster juice and hipsters. Saves me a trip to NYC.

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  33. Sherri: why save that only for women? You could say it LOUDER to men.

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  34. *tries to imagine what that backstory would entail.
    *no pun intended.

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  35. You’re the Bees Knees, Mihow. I loved that post. It almost made me miss the D train.

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  36. The D train? What the hell is the D train? Is that along the BDQ route? You know something? I don’t think I’ve EVER been on the D train. heh.

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  37. And for shits and giggles: here is my route. Now, i will shut the hell up. Maybe.

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  38. Holy crap. My commute (201st street in the Bronx to Columbus circle) was like 5 times the length of yours, even tho the D ran express most of the time.

    I don’t think I was ever on the L. Sounds the same, although instead of Hipsters the D was mostly populated by the (begin sarcasm) bright young minds who inhabit the lower Bronx and upper Manhattan (end sarcasm). My other commute was on the 4 train from 201st street to 86th and Park. Now THAT was a weird mix of people.

    Okay, now its time for me to shut the hell up.

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  39. Fish, it’s NEVER time for you to shut up. Really.

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  40. bad commutes and smelly armpits appear to be a universal thing…

    BBC: tube passengers told to take a shower

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  41. Dude, if anything like that happen in NYC (America, even) people would FREAK out because their “freedom” was being toyed with or something. We’re so friggin’ uppity and annoying sometimes. Drives me crazy. Seriously, “freedom” does tend to eat itself.

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  42. I don’t know if we would freak out about being told to shower. But take my gun away? I’m sorry, but you’ll have to pry that from my cold, dead and dirty fingers.

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  43. Miiiiihow….will you draw us a picture of yoooou-self? :D

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  44. Yeah, yeah…draw us a pict-cha!

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  45. I will! OK! If I have time during work, I’ll do it today. If not, I’ll have it up by 7 p.m. EST. You guys—I loves ya.

    Charlie, again, while at the gym I thought about what i wrote before—I have no idea what I was talking about. I guess I figured that if someone suddenly started telling people to wear deodorant or shower or whatever, they might freak out. People have their reasons for being just the way they are. :] But it really didn’t make much sense.

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  46. Awww golly, Mihow. You made me blush.

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  47. No Fishy, that was your reflection in the monitor. PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON!

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  48. Ahem…the time is now 7:09 PM EST.

    Where’s your picture, missy?

    taps foot

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  49. I am the worst blogger in the world. Seriously. I suck. (I just got home from work. I’m the worst blogger in the world who can’t seem to leave work at a normal hour.) Do they have an award for worst blogger? Sign me up!

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