On Monday, my commute was particularly awful. For those of you who are living outside of New York City, we’re days away from facing a transit-wide strike. Which would pretty much cripple the city. It’d be like taking away a New Yorker’s sight for a few hours each day. I would have no real way of getting to work. I could walk, which would suck because it’s currently about 0 degrees. Or I could ride my bike, which would also suck because it’s currently about 0 degrees. Come Thursday, all hell may break lose in New York City. This is a much worse way to enter a weekend. It’s much worse than welcoming a 50-foot ape.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure the employees are getting their legs warmed up anticipating a walkout. Because yesterdays commute was up there with that time where I smeared Crisco all over my pale 13-year-old body in hopes of speeding up that summer tan.
First of all, the 4/5/6 was barely running. Which is always bad. It’s bad because it’s a major artery. When the 4/5/6 finally did come, it actually received a standing ovation. Now, that’s mainly do to the fact the MTA patrons wouldn’t ever dream of sitting down on a subway platform. We barely sit on the benches. You’d have to be drunk and/or off your rocker to do such a thing. However, I’m pretty sure that had the basement of Manhattan been lined with clean, (synthetic, but soft!) rabbit fur, people would have stood up to clap upon its arrival.
By the time I got to the L Train, I was already grumpy. But I was willing to embrace it and let it go. The platform was packed. I anticipated a problem because that evening my brother called to say that the L Train just decided to skip about 5 stops making a beeline for a stop mid-way through Brooklyn. Everyone was raging mad, obviously. The MTA made no announcement of such. Problem. Totally. So I prepared for the worst.
The platform was a mess. So, I stood in the back remembering all those times some asshat arrived late and made a mad dash for the front of the cue. There is nothing more infuriating. Nothing at all. I always wait my turn. I mean that wholeheartedly.
The train came and I decided I’d wait for the next one. It was entirely too crowded. People pushed their puffy, jacketed bodies into the car, caring little for others. Spending the winter with the MTA is fascinating. It’s sort of like walking down a busy street while it’s raining and most of the people out that day happen to NEED the golf-sized umbrella instead of the standard size. The same number of people use the street while it’s raining as when it’s perfectly sunny, however, they don’t seem to remember that their head and therefore body circumference inflates to about 4 times its original size. Riding the MTA in the winter is sort of like that, only you’re padded and can’t really get hurt. The extra padding even helps soften potential slaps or random kicks in the gut. But I digress.
Mid-way through the stuffing, an MTA employee got on the intercom and made an announcement.
“THE NEXT STOP ON THIS TRAIN WILL BE BEDFORD AVENUE. I REPEAT, THE NEXT STOP ON THIS TRAIN WILL BE BEDFORD AVENUE. WE WILL BE BYPASSING FIRST AND THIRD AVENUE.”
There was a mad dash for the door from the inside of the train and then a madder dash from the platform. A mass-human transfer was about to occur simultaneously. Watching a transfer like this is the antithesis of choreography. And it’s downright alarming how it plays out. It’s even more alarming that it actually works. And if you sit back and watch, you’re baffled finally that no one was hurt. I guess that’s what they refer to as “Organized Chaos”.
I waited back still but figured that if I could, I’d get on the train considering I would be taking it further than Bedford Avenue. And low and behold, there was room for me. I got on the train.
As I was moving my body into the car I received a swift shove to the middle of my back.
“I’m getting on this train!”
The tall man behind was slapping his lips together. His friend laughed. His friend was already on the train, learning against the door.
“I’m getting ON THIS TRAIN.”
He repeated himself to be funny. But the thing I didn’t find too funny was that he used my body as his comedic prop.
“Excuse me, but you don’t have to shove me.”
I didn’t want to start anything. I was merely asking him to be nice. I said it calmly and without judgment. I said it directly to him.
“OH YEAH!? Well, this is a crowded train! AND YOU CUT IN FRONT OF ME!”
I cut in front of him?
“I cut in front of you?”
And that’s when the sarcasm cut into our conversation.
“I’M SOOOO SORRY IF I PUSHED YOU. BUT YOU CUT IN FRONT OF ME!”
His friend immediately looked away. I think he was embarrassed. I know I would have been.
“You have to start being a nicer person.”
That’s all I knew to say. I reached into to my bag to find my salvation. I dug around looking for the wires, the little ear buds, the line I use as fuel that will hopefully drive me to disappear. My iPod has become that instrument. It’s a tool I use to distribute relaxation or, simply to avoid reality.
“I NEED TO BE NICER? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CUT IN FRONT OF ME! SO I PUSHED YOU! I’D DO IT AGAIN!”
I put in my headphones and my head filled with music. I needed something loud to drown him out. He was not letting this go. Girls Vs. Boys was what I settled on. And only now, while writing this, do I realize the irony of my choice. Girl was definitely losing. And Boy persisted. I searched the inside of my head to try and figure out what phrase, sentence, or word I might say that would put an end to the confrontation. I came up empty.
“Could you please just let this one go?”
I turned the music up louder. This time, I really couldn’t hear him. And at Bedford Avenue I got out of the car and moved to another one.
When I got home, I couldn’t help but play it over and over again in my head. I tossed it around and let the sharp edges of the memory poke me with each turn. How is it this goofy interaction got to me so much? Why was I letting it invade my evening? I thought about things I could have said or done to make the interaction move more graciously. I came up with nothing. And with that the evening’s commute was punctuated with a sigh.