Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kids, crazy bitches and a dog: Subway praise

I fucking love the subway. I love the people on it. I love it when it runs smoothly and I love it when it snags my plans.

Among people who live in New York and happen to have a blog, this makes me the 2000 Palm Beach Jew who enthusiastically supported Pat Buchanan, the vegan hog-farmer, the dude in College Station who loves the Longhorns. At least once a week I read a post about how the subway ruined somebody's life. This is unfortunate.
Scene: A very full Lexington Avenue line going downtown. I happen to have a backpack (same one I've owned since high school, natch) which I've done my best to position unobtrusively. Angry bitch stands behind me. She hates me and my fucking backpack. Occasionally, she makes a point of shoving it. What she doesn't realize is that a half-inch away from my torso is a 5-foot-4 young woman with a yappy dog cradled in her arms. I'm a tall drink of water, so if Angry Bitch shoves hard enough, my crotch will be thrust into the small woman with the yappy dog. The yappy dog appears calm and well-behaved, but two small kids crowd around it. The yappy dog growls at the kids. Kid pets yappy dog, yappy dog snarls and tries to bite. Kid flinches. Yuppie lady doesn't notice that the dog is snarly. She tries to pet yappy dog, and yappy dog snaps at her. Yuppie lady expresses shock. Angry Bitch shoves again.
Subway late in the morning? Good, that means you get into work late, which means less time suffering. Important meeting and the subway is fucking things up? Don't worry, they'll understand. I work with card-carrying badasses. If I came down with colon cancer they'd have no problem asking me in on a Sunday. Late because the train is running slow? Immediate compassion.
Scene: I'm going into work on a Saturday morning. I get into a screaming match with the very large, very angry bitch who mans the subway booth. We end up shouting at each other, with elegant remarks like, "You are not listening to me!" countered by "No, you are not listening to me!"

Oh yeah, I realize. What she just told me is right. I drop the fight, smile and thank her. It was vigorous. I've already had a yelling match, my juices are flowing and life is good.
Improv Everywhere's pants-free ride.

Subway late after work? Stop bitching. You get to go home. Your day is over. Turn up "Jesse's Girl" on the iPod. You get to go home, and you don't live in some shitty city, especially some shitty city where you'd be stuck in a traffic jam, leaning on the horn, listening to some garbage radio station that plays Black Eyed Peas or "Bad Company" by Bad Company.
Scene: JMZ on a Friday afternoon. Mom with an infant and a toddler sit next to me. I'm no fan of kids. I move to give them as much space as I can. Toddler doesn't want to sit next to me so she climbs on Mom's lap and dumps an empty sippy cup and some dolls in the open seat. Jabs in my shoulder: toddler is poking me with a Barbie doll. I feel highly annoyed, then immediately disarmed. I pretend to ignore th jabbing kid, but I kind of love it. Across the train from me is a Puerto Rican dude with massive arms, heavily tattooed. He's oblivious.
I've known everybody who I work with since summer 2001. Most of my friends, I've known since Bill Clinton's first term -- second term at latest. Bouncy bounce in my bubble. Get on the subway and there's everybody else. There you are. It's the social contract. Inconvenience? Sometimes. The middle-aged lady reading Jane Austen and the loud fat teenage girls on their way to school probably have perfect lives too, and getting worked up about something petty isn't going to make life any easier, so chill and admire.
Scene: Flop is a graceful and sophisticated young man. Sure, it's 3 a.m., but you and your team of twelve have been wandering fucking Bushwick in the rain for what feels like hours. The team enters an L-train occupied exclusively by drunk teens. You tell Flop that you'll give him $5 if he makes it into Manhattan standing, without touching anything for support. He succeeds! Along the way he makes surf poses, comes close to wiping out a few times, and entertains both the home team and the drunk teenagers.
I'm not going to say that if you don't love the subway, you have no business being in New York. But at least 10 or 15 percent (but probably more like 20) of the pleasure of living in the city is forced proximity with strangers, people you have nothing in common with but you silently negotiate with and around each other and then carry on with your lives. This challenges come in various forms: noisy bargoers outside your window, loud spillover from the Puerto Rican Day parade, homeless junkie trying to chase you around Tompkins Square Park. You have no choice: learn to handle, then learn to love. For two bucks you get to go wherever the fuck you want and entertain the same small-scale interactions that have been ongoing since the Dutch and the English and the freedmen and the Jews and a few Indians knocked elbows around the Battery. None of us belongs any more than the other, except maybe the Indians, but they don't run any banks so even that's debatable. This is what is known as "community."

Stop worrying. We'll get there just fine.

6 comments:

Jaime said...

Clap clap clap. Beautiful and true. Except when those annoying R&B singing pandhandlers come through the door. Then I seethe. But otherwise, so true.

Todd said...

Very true. I get pissed at The MTA too often. I should chill.

dmbmeg said...

I mostly agree. Except once I ended up on a crowded 4 train in the summer of 2003 on the way back from a Yankee game with three guys wearing Red Sox hats. That was in no way pleasant.

I basically had to offer every Yankee fan, guys and girls, sexual favors to let me live and stop yelling '1918'. Although I don't blame the MTA as much as Yankee fans who procreate to breed more Yankee fans.

CrimeNotes said...

Jaime and Todd: Thanks much. Who doesn't love the circus, even when tired and grouchy?

dmbmeg: Yankees fans and Red Sox fans deserve each other. Somewhere in Dante's Inferno there are millions of loud motherfuckers with bad accents and chips on their shoulders being bludgeoned with bats.

Flop said...

I love the subway, but think the MTA is criminally incompetent. I wonder if something ineffably, wonderfully insane would be lost if it were run by people who had half a clue. But I don't think I'll have to worry about getting any empirical evidence on that soon.

The Paris Metro is the only system that can compete.

flop said...

I would like to add for further discussion that community is a rare thing in 21st Century America, which I think is part of the reason so many people find the subway uncomfortable.

Furthermore, the fact that the subway is community for New Yorkers is just another reason that arbitrary searches are so offensive to me.