Thursday, December 14, 2006

what does the "S" stand for?

The S train is a one stop midtown situation that runs from east to west and back again on four tracks. Everybody knows that there are other ways to get from point A to point B if you have to get across town and everybody knows that they aren’t as fast or nearly as efficient. That’s why everybody uses this train. And when i say everybody, i mean the unwashed masses, yearning to get to work on time.

If you’re smart, you hit the ground running. God help you if you need this train line and something goes awry, like there's less cars than usual or one track is out. It’s a messier stand-off than any other one. Then again, I can’t ever remember using it when it wasn’t as tightly packed as a clown car. There’s always this desperation involved that heightens the intensity of it all. I look around me as i'm headed towards the S and i feel like I’m running with the bulls in Pamplona because i'm surrounded by people who are moving as fast as i am -- so fast, in fact, that it seems as though none of us are really moving at all. The horde moves as one toward that one train door, a tidal wave of proletariats coming from every direction. The train is already full when we get there. And we get on anyway. That's what the S is like.

Lately, I've noticed that people are quick to mouth off on this line. It's trippy. I don't think that's ever a good idea in a city like this one because you don't know what people will say or do in retaliation. Maybe they'll ignore you. Maybe they'll snap a pistol in your face. (The last thing on earth that you would ever want to do is provoke someone, especially if they have a gun -- right?) Sometimes you don't have to do anything at all. Just standing on the platform is enough to get a complete stranger to attack you with a power saw. That's why i'm always in awe of people who will shoot their mouth off to a stranger. I honestly think it's some new kind of stupid.

The other day I’m on the east side headed west. i wanted to get into the very last car because it meant less people to weed through in my sprint for the next train I'd have to take to get home. That doesn't sound like much, I know -- but when you're in one of the busiest corners of the world, every little thing makes the commute easier. Of course, this meant running the length of the train, a skill in and of itself. The doors could always close before I get all the way to the end.
As I got to the last car, the doorway was a wall of people but i could see that there was room further into the car and evidently so could some Indian man directly behind me because we both began to ask people to move in. Surprisingly, they obliged. One of them didn’t move, and as the crowd shifting around him to accommodate us, he began to complain. As soon as I heard his voice, I knew that he was from the south. He talked like Boomhauer’s would-be cousin – not as fast but just as twangy. He must have been furious to talk at all – and why he directed his venom at me, I’ll never know. I guess as a black girl I must have seemed to be an easy target. Most Southerners I know don’t like to let their accents out of the bag up north. He looked Texas-German: stocky, with dark blonde features and blue eyes. Although he probably wasn’t, he looked severely middle aged. Like some crummy job that kept him well fed had totally worked him over, the wrong way.

He was all wound up and madder than a wet hen, letting me have it about how he waited for ten whole minutes until the train got there and he didn’t see why I should just walk up and get on the train, how supremely unfair it was. To tell you the truth, I was amused that he thought I was some Yankee.

We kept going tit for tat until i finally said, what do you want me to do. He said, i want you to get off the train, is what i want. I said, i can't get off the train, i'm already on it. So he went off on another tear and when he was finished, i said -- slowly, with feeling, in this really high pitched voice, like a little kid, all singsongy and soft -- i love you.

i know you're not going to believe this (because i didn't) but that totally shut him all the way up. of all the things i could have said, that's what got his goat? ha.

maybe when i said that he realized how stupid he sounded.

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