To all of you who survive the daily commute of your 9-5 grind with strength and composure, whether by car, bus, trolley or:
If you do not have the opportunity (or misfortune) to commute via the, you have missed out on the following experiences that I, a faithful though bitter, daily customer of the and its orange line, have witnessed first hand over four days:
A strange looking, pale as a vampire, tall, spindly, man sprints to jump on my 8:16 AM train and consequently gets caught between the doors. Instead of trying to either retrieve himself or thrust himself forward so we may proceed, he HANGS THERE lifeless with his head down, one arm and one leg in the car and the other pair out. He looks up in despair, thrashes about for a minute like a trapped mouse and hangs again as we all watch in befuddlement.
Finally the doors release momentarily and he rushes in, collapses on his hands and knees, sighing, looking as if he had just climaxed or escaped a wild boar. The train begins to move as he begins to pace up and down in front of me, stumbling left and right from the turbulence, while we all tuck our knees in, wary that he’s just another nutcase with a contagious disease. Then he whips out a book and as the man next to me leaves, he settles aside me, breathing heavily but reading serenely. Now, whenever anyone reads ANYTHING next to me, I can’t help but read along with them (an annoying social habit of mine). So I glance over and realize…he is reading Mandarin? Of course, due to what he mistakenly interprets as ‘socializing,' he smiles and leans the book towards me as if encouraging we read together! I give him a ‘what is wrong with you?’ stare and look away, dignified.
Then I notice the book. The mandarin language is read from the back cover to the front cover, and from the right page to the left, or the exact opposite of how the western hemisphere reads. And here this oddity was, probably off his medication for days, reading books in Mandarin, most likely thinking it was written in Hieroglyphics, clearly ignorant to the fact that he has no idea what he’s reading and feeling morally glorified in sharing it with his oriental co-passenger. Just another wonderful day in his demented (albeit blissfully ignorant) neighborhood.
I am late. Again. My hair is wet and I’m dreading my miserable, mundane, hygienically criminal commute. I have my two-weeks-old in my hands, running down five flights of stairs because my elevator is surprisingly non-functional for the third time in two weeks. I’m flying down floors 5, 4 then...BAMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!. I opened the door to the stairwell on floor 3 and run smack dab into my 4″9, 325 lb, 65-year-old widowed neighbor. My trash bag flies out of my hand, leaking putrid-ness on the floor. My face, frozen in mutilated shock, embarrassment and disgust. I creep along the wall, praying that I can collect myself to quickly apologize to her and flee the scene. I bend down to collect my bag of jellified waste and there it was, staring me in the face. Namely, her crotch: no pants, no panties, but a proudly worn geriatric diaper in XXXL to fit her 325 lb incontinent and presently naked lower half. Good morning to you, too.
I caught the 8 AM train. All is well. This means I arrive at the office at 8:37 so I can have an extra 20 minutes to continue “filing” my “documents” into the paper shredder. The train car is empty save for three other passengers. At the following stop a massive 640 lb obese child of god thunders his way in and, since I am seated at the row closest to the door, he ignores the probably 67 empty seats through out the car and rests his clogged arteries and polluted ventricular system next to me, taking up the remaining half of our bench. He then turns and looks at me, with eyelids just as fat his fingers and says, “That’s a very pretty dress you have on ma’am. Be careful not to open your legs on the train today.”
The M train is 20 minutes behind schedule. I’ve been sweating like a pig and my feet are swollen bigger than a woman in her second trimester. Why? Because of my liver I suppose. My doctor attributes all my health issues to my liver. I still don’t know what this means. No seats left on the local train. The herded cattle are all miserable and will violently assault when provoked. Time pities us and passes us by. We are brought to 53rd St and Lexington Ave, where a grown man, exceeding six feet in height, boards my car with his baseball cap, sunglasses secured around his neck, on, and backpack strapped with a water bottle on the side. “Good morning fellow passengers!” he sings with a heavy tongue and lisp, “I’d like to go to Macy’s today…can someone come with me?” Silence, as we attempt to ignore his outrageous morning cheer delivered with speech impediments and gusto. He turns to a woman probably in her forties and says, “Will you come with me?”
“No,” she says, “but I will tell you how to get there”.
“Ok,” he replies with a smile, one wanderingand a little bit of drool puddling at the corners of his mouth. “And then will YOU come with me? Because I like what you’re wearing,” he says as he turns to a business man in a full suit while eyeing his wardrobe in amazement.
“No, I’m sorry, I have to be at the office,” the businessman replies politely but staunchly. “Ok,” says this overgrown boy scout with a never waning smile, “Then I will borrow your book right?” he asks, as he turns to another woman reading. “Well, honey, you can borrow it as soon as I’m finished reading it,” she replies, marking her as the first person to return his smile and sincerity.
“OK GREAT!!!” he screams in excitement then, suddenly, his face falls, his eyes droop, and he reaches to fiddle with the sunglasses tied around his neck with his ‘easy reach’ cord. “B-b-but…when I get to Macy’s,” he stammers, “I, um, well …I- I just don’t know what to buy..what should I buy?” Silence again. And I suspiciously peer over my right shoulder, yanked from my position as the outside observer. All eyes were on me, and I realized: Crap. It’s my turn to respond to this day camper isn’t it? So I look him in the eye, drool now brimming over his bottom lip, sadness saturating his face, and I say to him, with as much sincere excitement as I can muster, and as big a smile as I can beam underground on this, “How about a brand new leather jacket for the fall?”
“YEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” he screams, shaking from excitement, as a light bulb goes off in his head, the life comes back to his eyes, and all is right in his world, at 9:02 AM. He is silent for the duration of the ride, lost in the glory of what may come on his adventurous path towards Macy’s, with leather jackets and edible treats swimming around the daydream bubbles in his head as he stares off to one corner of the car.
A sudden tranquility descends upon us commuters because, although our battle through the day has not yet started, it is still Thursday, two days before the weekend, and on this day, we have all participated in the sheer, genuine happiness of one innocent little soul.