One of the undeniable perks of big city living (and wretched, two-hour commutes) is the bottomless well of anecdotes that is public transit. Have I told you about the old Chinese lady screaming a heavily accented version of “Ehhhhh-xiiiiiihhhhht Laaaaaaaaaahhhh-fe” at 10 in the morning? How about the very cracked out individual who kept screaming at the dark-skinned lady across from her that she was, “nothing but WHITE TRASH!” much to her intended target’s confusion. (“I’m not WHITE,” she clarified after the ranter had departed.)
There are visitations of loveliness, like the mariachi band (complete with hats!) and the middle aged black men who sing gospel — they are a favorite not just because they sing so beautifully (and they DO) but because they seem such an unlikely group to be friends. One wears a very dad sweatshirt and a fishing hat and is round and smiley; one favors Cosby sweaters. The third? Looks and dresses and glowers like Snoop Dog. Starhillgirl has already written about another favorite blessing here. (The true magic that one enacts is transforming a crowded, evening rush hour 4 train of people who Do Not Have Time For This into a bunch of smiling gigglers. And he does it in just one stop.)
There are clever people, like the tumbling boys. They fly through the air while the train rocks and rumbles, surely in danger of sudden death. The littlest ones — 9 or 10 years old — do the wildest tricks, and while the scene is Dickensian and should arouse my indignation, I admit that I thrill to their flips and springs. The time I heard one hit his head — HARD — on the ceiling, I felt especially guilty for my idle, irresponsible enjoyment, and I gave more money than usual. Later I learned that this is a bit of prestidigitation of its own: apparently the older boys in charge of the boom box have found that tips go up enormously when a difficult flip is accompanied by a sharp kick to the door or the edge of a seat. I could have sworn that kid hit his head, but I’m glad he didn’t (and understand better now why he seemed so unruffled and the blank look in his eye as I hoped he was okay).
As surely as New Yorkers must grit their teeth over the gaggles of tourists herded and shushed by the harried relatives they’re visiting, knowing that our parents and aunts and cousins will visit one day, too, and that they, too, will talk too loudly and block the doors and dither in front of the staircases, we all share a civic responsibility to at times be the entertainers. Subway craziness is a co-op situation, like so many parts of city life. We must from time to time be the one who shifts a heavy bag at exactly the wrong time and falls half the length of the car. We must be the one who discovers her slipper (just one) on the floor at rush hour. (I STILL have no idea how that happened.) We must sometimes cry openly because we can’t wait for privacy.
**Pro tip: DO NOT argue theology with subway preachers. Not because they’re necessarily any better at it, but they are more shameless. And you’ll never win. And six-a.m. screaming matches are best reserved for family and close friends. (And if the crowd takes there side, you will feel like dog shit. On the other hand, you will also get plenty of room to sit down, even at rush hour. Thanks, contagious gayness.)**
Yesterday, I made my contribution on a crowded Metro North commuter train, surrounded by men in grey and navy and pinstripes and wingtips. I was as discreet as I could manage, but anyone halfway clever could have cooked up a nice story with the words I couldn’t avoid:
You’re welcome, Mount Kisco.
…which is to say, IUI today. I’m having a lot of trouble feeling optimistic about my chances, but then, I know exactly what my chances are without it. (And anyway, starhillgirl promised she’d think excited thoughts so I don’t have to.)