Thursday, January 5, 2012

Crazies on the Subway

In New York, it is inevitable that you will run into crazy people on the subway because this city is filled with crazies and the subway is the main form of transportation. You get your run of the mill crazies, like people preaching or conspiracy theorizing; or your drunken crazies, like the guy who stared at myself and a friend as he chugged a bottle of wine from a black bag; or your homeless Reagan crazies, like the guy who carried a bag of horrid smelling poop on the N train. Here are a few of my oddest encounters.

Blurb I: My Hood

In my neighborhood, there are almost no White people. There are lots of Hispanic and Asian (including Indian) people, with a few people from Ireland working the bars. The Whites that are sprinkled around are usually leftover from the period when Sunnyside and Jackson Heights were predominately working-class Irish neighborhoods. Jackson Heights is actually where my (Irish) stepfather grew up and where Scrabble was invented.

Sign commemorating the birthplace of Scrabble
The best part of the 7 (subway that runs through my neighborhood) is that it is mostly first-generation Americans - Hardly anyone on the train speaks English! This is AMAZING because if I can hear a conversation, I must eavesdrop. I don't even want to! They could be talking about the most mundane topic (I once unwillingly eavesdropped on a conversation about why a person chose a certain preschool) and I will have to listen, even if I am trying to read. If, however, the participants of the conversation are speaking a different language, it doesn't pierce my nosey ears and it is like beautiful, lilting white noise in the background. Assuming they're not speaking German, of course.

Unfortunately, this morning some douchebag was on the train loudly chatting away to some girl (assumed) about how "you just have to get it, Baby!" and "You know who I just saw at the train station? SMILEY! I know, SMILEY! I was like YO, SMILEY!" I was so angry at him because he hindered me as I struggled to read the Steve Jobs Biography (I am not enjoying it).

This was not as bad as when my friend was visiting me for my birthday and we were dragging her MASSIVE bags up to the 7 platform. As she tried to get permission to get the Emergency Door opened, a hulking beast of a man came up to her and asked her where she was from. "Um, Upstate New York."

"Oh," he replied, "Because you're White, you know that?"

"Oh. Um, okay." (My friend is super White - Blonde hair, blue eyes, creepy pale skin)

"LOOK AROUND YOU! There's no White people here! That's how I knew you weren't from around here."

(Since I am racially ambiguous, I'm not exactly sure where I fell in his mind)

"Oh, right. Hm." She remained terse, looking at me with pleading in her eyes. I shrugged and tried to convey, What am I supposed to do? I'm clearly not White.

"You know why?" He bellowed, ignorant of the people trying to get on the subway during late-rush hour, "WHITE FLIGHT! EVERYONE IS LEAVING! WHITE FLIGHT! Look at me. What color am I? I'm white!" (He was more red at this point)

"Haha, I guess," she replied, having no escape from crazy idiot.

He finally took his cue and walked away, laughing maniacally and occasionally yelling "WHITE FLIGHT!"

Blurb II: Flat Iron

When my friend Tits Katree visited in November, we went on an adventure throughout NYC that included Eataly, The World Trade Center Memorial, a brief encounter with Occupy Wall Street and The Daphne Guinness Exhibit at FIT. FYI, if you are in NYC this exhibit is free and stunning and only here until January 7th! Even Boyfriend enjoyed it as he got dragged along.

Some Alexander McQueen shoes at the exhibit

Anyway, as we were exiting the R train at 23rd street for Eataly, a man was holding a small case and demanding a dollar ("Hey, You gotta dollar? Come on, you gotta a dollar?"), right outside the turnstiles. I generally don't give people money who are begging unless they've done an extraordinarily impressive performance so Boyfriend, Tits and I all ignored him. 

"HEY! I KNOW YOU GOT A DOLLAR!" he yelled at me as I walked away. "COME ON! I KNOW YOU GOT A DOLLAR!" 

He was wrong, I rarely carry cash because I lose things too often. Yet he kept yelling at us, prompting me to yell back, "THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE HAVE TO GIVE IT TO YOU!" Yes, I need a filter.

"I'm trying to get a job! I play the clarinet!" (this explained the small case) "And I need to play on the subway to get a job! I'm trying to better myself!" 

Yes, this all sounds reasonable but he was saying it like a dick. Additionally, if he had politely asked for a swipe (Boyfriend and I both have unlimited cards and we can easily swipe someone into the subway if we're not going to ride in the next 20 minutes or so), I would've obliged. I love sticking it to The Man!

"That's not my problem!" Boyfriend yelled back, flipping the guy the most offensive of all birds.

We started up the stairs as he continued to yell God knows what and I knew it was going to escalate without even turning around. I started trying to sprint up the stairs but this family ahead of me picked up their three-year-old, taking up both paths of the staircase, and started slowly walking up. Tits yelled "Oh my God, he's coming, he's coming," and attempted to join me up the stairs, again thwarted by the family of turtles.

"OH! WHAT HAPPENED? HUH? WHAT HAPPENED?" the clarinetist yelled as he came up on us and grabbed Boyfriend's arm, digging his musical nails into Boyfriend's doughy skin. "WHAT HAPPENED?"

"Let go of me, you psycho! Get off of me!" Boyfriend yelled as ripped his arm away and we were finally able to escape from the staircase. FYI, I shoved past that family like I was running from the fires of hell...I am George Costanza in that way. And Boyfriend still has a mark from that man's nails, forever reminding him to keep his middle finger to himself.

Blurb III: Astoria, My Ex-hood

My old neighborhood, MEEEEMMMMMORIES
When a few of my friends came to visit me for my 23rd birthday, we were riding the N train and a bent-over man came limping down the middle. He started out his speech fairly commonly, talking about how he was in an accident and needs help to get by, he's been homeless, etc etc. He talked about how he just needs to get through a little while longer until his disability check starts coming in and he doesn't want to ask for our help but he needs it. It was a lonnnnng, sad speech, made especially terrifying by the way he gripped the pole with his scratched, spindly fingers, couldn't bring himself fully upright and shook constantly.

The most terrifying moment, however, was when he jerked up his shirt and revealed the pole that supported his back. His back was horrifying - covered in scars with an obvious rod in the middle stretched over his thin skin. He'd obviously been through a lot but I still didn't give him any money, nor did my friends, especially since we were all avoiding looking directly at him even though he was standing right in front of us. A woman next to us had already given him a few bucks and went back and handed him a twenty after he revealed the rod. So he was doing okay.

Finally, the terror was over. He started to limp away, probably happy with his haul. "So please, if anyone can help, I am just waiting for my disability check," he said, preparing to leave the train car, "And, if anyone has any pills, I'll take those too."

I mean, come on, Dude. At least keep the charade up! Additionally, I saw this guy about 6 or 7 months later and he started his speech the same way - he was just waiting for his disability to start.


  1. Ha! I would visit your hood in a hear beat! It sounds quite... vibrant and not boring. Your post made me almost LOL. Funny and vivid!
    Thank you for stopping by my blog!

  2. Love all of these stories, but most especially the George Costanza reference. :)