Sleeping, snoring, sneezing. A fertile breeding ground for anxiety and disease. Despite all of the maladies that can be caused by the subway, riding it does have its perks.
I recently began an internship that has me commuting from Brooklyn Heights to Lincoln Center, about a 30-40 minute trip in total. The early morning trek has introduced me to rush-hour on the subway. It’s like being in a small, smelly laundry room with dirty clothes and no detergent.
I regularly find myself barely having the energy to open my eyes, while wiggling my way onto the Manhattan-bound two or three train. I say “excuse me” while I try and find my own little circle of love to stand in on the subway itself, but nobody seems to return my politeness.
Since there are obviously no seats available to me, I do my best to keep my balance while attempting to hold on to the nearest metal bar—without actually touching it with the palm of my hand. I happen to be a fan of the germ-free “wrist-hold,” where I wrap my wrist around the bar while trying not to fall over every time the train comes to a stop. Sometimes I succeed, but the majority of the time, I take a spill.
This past Thursday, as tired as I was, I thought I was doing a good job at keeping sturdy. That is of course until I ended up on the lap of a more than generously sized black woman who had been trying to sleep. Everything about her was massive; her hands, her feet, her giant gold-plated hoop earrings. Even her weave had to be at least the length of my torso, which was accented by her lime-green fluorescent Muumuu. I felt myself tipping over and for a split second tried to regain balance, although I realized quite quickly that I was going down no matter what. At that point, there’s nothing much a person can do other than go with it. And that’s what I did.
There I was, sprawled across this sleepy stranger, laughing a little bit out of embarrassment and at my situation’s absurdity. I figured she’d laugh too.
Not a chance. “Get off me, woman! What are you, crazy? You must be a sick girl! Get the hell off of me! Charles! Charles! Get this girl off! Get off! Get offfffffffff!”
I was mortified and apologized profusely.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said profusely.
“You’re crazy! You’re a lunatic!” she said.
Her voice was throwing me off. Her accent told me I was on vacation; her words and tone told me I was in hell. Since my apologies weren’t enough and she continued to make a scene and a fool out of me on my morning route, I suddenly got mad.
“Well perhaps if you didn’t look like a poorly decorated couch, I would have fallen on somebody else!” After my statement, I ran for my life. We were nearly at Chambers Street by this point, and I had quite a way to go. I got off at the stop and began to run up the stairs. My suede knee-high boots were by no means athletic attire. I turned around for a split second as the train wheeled away. And saw my poorly-dressed couch chasing after me with an umbrella.
“Am I still sleeping?” I wondered.
But, I was not sleeping. This woman was after me, and by her side was a skinny guy in a dirt-covered “wife beater” who must have been her beloved “Charles.”
“Get back here, crazy girl!” he yelled. “Apologize to my lady!” They shared the same accent. Although I swear he was toothless, he managed to get out both nouns and consonants just fine.
“I did apologize, sir! I said I was sorry. I’m sorry!” and up the rest of the stairs I went.
Charles and “his lady” never did catch me. I got out of the subway station and into a cab. Those two nuts cost me $15 dollars in travel fees that day, but it was well worth it. The last thing I needed was an umbrella-bashing to the head.
I took the subway home around five o’clock and faced more rush hour crowds. Needless to say, I was willing to touch the metal poles and ensure that I would be standing the entire train ride.
When a seat finally opened up, I sat down and thought of my morning. Closing my eyes for a few stops, I realized how exhausted I was after a very long and eventful day. I felt somebody sit next to me and dig an elbow into my side.
I opened my eyes, looked up and saw nothing but an umbrella. The same chiffon-colored, dry-as-bone umbrella, directed at my face like an angry teacher using a pointer stick.
This is it, I thought. I’m toast.
“It’s you! Crazy girl! Hahahaha!”
The laughing wouldn’t stop. Piercing my eardrums and making me nauseous, she just continued to laugh her full-bellied, evil chuckle in my face. I had no idea what was next.
I opened my eyes again. I had fallen asleep on the subway. It had been a dream. There was no umbrella or poncho in sight … but I had missed my stop by 45 minutes.
What a wonderful New York day.
Do you have a New York story?