Tag Archives: subway

Lame Adventure 222: The Rejection of Strangers

Strangers entering and exiting the 72nd Street Subway station on Stranger's Day.

If you happened to read Lame Adventure 221, you’re aware that this past Wednesday was the inaugural Stranger’s Day celebration, and I embraced this brand new commemoration with a degree of gusto more commonly reserved for participating in a holy war.  It never occurred to me that while holding a Stranger’s Day greeting card in my paw and politely asking fellow subway riders if they are familiar with The New Yorker, the cartoonist Roz Chast, or if they’d now like a Stranger’s Day card, some would look at me like I was harassing them.  The thought bubble above my head said one word:

My thought bubble:  Yikes!

One woman in her early thirties seemed petrified, so much so that she scared me.  I discussed her with my sidekick, Greg.

Me:  What do you think that was about?

Greg pondered the question.

Greg:  Could she have suffered a flashback to a time when she was brutally raped by a woman that looks just like you, dresses just like you, and was holding a weapon that looked just like a greeting card?

Of the five people I found the nerve to approach on the subway train, three rejected me – the aforementioned woman that literally ran, another woman who looked at me as if I had grown a second head, but the Wall Street businessman in the pink power tie was gracious.  He simply said, “No thanks.”

Of the two people that listened to my pitch and accepted cards, one was a woman around my age (over 40 under death), and a guy in Greg’s 18-34 demographic.  She seemed charmed by the idea and he said, “Thank you.”

Personalized Stranger's Day greeting card note or rantings of a mad woman?

I arrived at work dragging my feet for I was still carrying one card that now seemed as heavy as a boulder.  I conferred with Milton about strategy in an email exchange.

Me: Wow, giving three Stranger’s Day cards out on the commute in is much easier said than done.  Plus I didn’t see anyone reading The New Yorker this morning.  Joy.  Maybe everyone is boycotting it because they’re so horrified by Stranger’s Day?

Milton (donning his Mr. Succinct chapeau): On the subway, people are on their guard for criminals.

We decided I should hand out the last card at Starbuck’s.  I selected the one in the Barnes and Noble at Warren and Greenwich Streets in TriBeCa, primarily because everyone in there is reading so I was confident that whoever I focused on also knows how to write.  I zeroed in on a guy around Greg’s age scrolling through Craigslist postings on a MacBook.  He did not seem scary at all, nor was he and he did not seem to mind accepting that third card.  I left thinking:

Me:  Okay, he’s sitting at a computer in a place with WiFi.  He was willing to accept the card.  I can’t expect any more from him than if he asked me to write his comment on my site for him myself.  Hm, should I have suggested that?

What I have concluded from this experience is that Stranger’s Day is rather strange indeed since it appears that 99.9% of the populace has no idea what it is and they’d prefer not to know more about it.  A more appropriate name to some might be if it were called, “Don’t Approach Me Day.”   Yet, if I had to do it all over again, would I?

Hell no!

Hey, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.  I might be a bit off my rocker, but I’m definitely not a candidate for a strait jacket … yet.  Still, it was worth trying once, but now I’ll gladly hand the Stranger’s Day baton back to its creator, Roz Chast … hopefully she’ll accept that from me.

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Lame Adventure 215: Riding the Rails

Truth in advertising.

As any veteran New York City subway rider knows, whenever a train packed with a horde of passengers pulls into a station, but one car mysteriously has both space and seats, that’s a neon red flag if it’s a hot day in the middle of summer.  That space and those empty seats are the obvious giveaway that the air conditioning in that particular car is dead on arrival.  When the doors open, the riders eager to escape the sauna of the sweltering subway platform into a cool train enter collectively hopeful.  Even I have done this, and I’ve been riding those rails so long, I still remember what it was like when air-con on subway trains was not the norm.

To put it succinctly, it was rolling hell.

So like lambs to the slaughter we enter a train that feels like a barbecue pit.  There are loud shouts and soft murmurs of contempt for this situation.  The more Type A types (myself included) are mute.  We simply clamor to open the doors in-between cars that will lead us to the chill in the air we crave in the next car, even if it means breaking subway rules.  Passengers are not supposed to go from one car into another via those doors, but in this case, many of us cannot flout the rules quick enough.  Hey, we’re veteran subway riders and we also happen to have sweat trickling down our backs

This car was particularly cruel for the doors between cars were locked!  That generated more frustration, and I announced to a fellow steamed rider:

Me:  This is a health hazard! I’m about to spontaneously combust!

She chuckled at me in shared sympathy and then proceeded to take a step backward.  We were in effect being held hostage in this tube of stagnant hot air until the next stop when we could file out and make a beeline for the oasis of the next car.  As I charged out the door, I warned an overheated business-guy in a suit that was about to enter:

Me:  It’s Dante’s Inferno in there!

He got the message.

Overheated Business-guy in Suit:  I’m following you!

He raced behind me and entered the next car that offered the welcome cool air we sought.  He and I exchanged the New Yorker nod of “thanks” and “you’re welcome” (I’m old school, I don’t say, “no problem”) and then returned to our own focus and had nothing further to do with each other.  Also very New Yorker-like.

Anonymous passenger editorial comment to the MTA.

Lame Adventure 207: Lost and Wondering

A while ago, I was in the Chambers Street subway station waiting to board an uptown express train when I noticed this sorry site of a pair of sunglasses lying on the concrete platform floor.

Undignified end.

I figured that Someone Somewhere would soon be exiting the station at their final destination, enter the glare of sunny daylight, reach for their missing shades and would soon be searching their pockets or satchel at that very moment, wondering:

Someone Somewhere:  Where are my sunglasses?  What’d I do with them?  I know I was wearing them when I entered at Chambers Street …

My train arrived, I didn’t pick up the lost shades, nor did I hear Big Foot Bozo step on them, but I figured that was likely.  Or possibly someone might kick them into the tracks accidentally or intentionally.  Those shades, once valued by Someone Somewhere were now toast and their final destination was probably a landfill.  Of course, looking around my apartment as I write this post I suppose everything in my humble abode will eventually end up in a giant trash pile, too.  If my demise is remotely natural, my carcass will meet its end in the crematorium, and my ashes will be distributed evenly – one third by the Upper West Side’s Fairway Market (good food), one third by Film Forum (good film) and one third by the Public Theater (good plays).  It’s so much more emotionally satisfying to knowingly unload one’s possessions and self at will rather than suffer that sick feeling in the pit of one’s being and wonder:

Me (wondering):  Hey, what did I do with my [keys, gloves, American Express card, New York Film Festival ticket, umbrella, one hundred dollar bill from my dad, that phone number, lip balm, pen, mind]?

The follow-up phrase I always think as I perform that futile pat-down on myself:

Me: I know I just had it right here!

Then, there’s the moment of sick recollection:

Me (recalling):  Did my keys fall out of my pocket when I impulsively slipped into that screening of Hairspray when no one was looking?

Answer:  They sure did, and that multiplex’s kind lady in Lost and Found had them.  My unusual French key fob was quite a topic of cheerful monologue with her, but all I was thinking about was lying through my teeth about losing my ticket stub should she ask me to produce one.  She didn’t.  It is very likely that when she asked:

Lost & Found Lady:  Are these keys on this cute unique key chain yours?

And I gushed:

Me:  Oh, I lost my ticket stub, too.  Yes, those are my keys!

She thought I was spastic.

Recovering my keys in response to my being a movie-going cheat that day was a rare and lucky break.  Most of the time when I’ve lost something, even if I have a solid clue about what happened to it, I know like Someone Somewhere’s lost shades, that item is a goner and no amount of certainty that I still have it in my possession will bring it back.  Suck it up to fate and replace it.

Lame Adventure 201: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

Every so often I encounter a complete stranger that is so unnecessarily inconsiderate they catapult to frontrunner status for the Unbearable Dense-ness of Being Award.  This has happened to me twice this week and so I have two nominees.  The incidents occurred at two reliable sources of combat pay in an average New Yorker’s daily life – the subway and the laundromat.

On my way into work at rush hour, I boarded a crowded 2 Express train at the 72nd Street subway station heading downtown.  Using my Elastigirl skills, I elongated my being into a slot of space the width of a pencil next to a lean businessman.  Between the two of us, we easily allowed four more passengers entry including Drizella the Hair Whipper who parked herself next to me.  Initially I did not even notice her, but once the train pulled out of the station and began to pick up speed, Drizella started twirling her ponytail in a circular motion, oblivious that it was continually hitting me in the face.  I think the obvious:

Me (thinking):  Huh, my new low beaten with hair.

I bellow aloud:

Me (bellowing aloud):  Give the hair twirling a rest.  You’re hitting me in the face!

Drizella stops and looks at me with this expression:

What'd I do?

Earlier in the week on an evening that was warm with a nice breeze, perfect weather to be sitting outdoors sipping a cold beverage with any member of my posse, I instead chose to do laundry since I was fast approaching the underwear-I’ve-yet-to-ditch-but-if-I-were-caught-dead-wearing-it-my-corpse-would-be-mortified phase.  This is underwear I would not even photograph for this site for fear that would be the one image from this blog that goes viral.

As I was waiting for my wash to finish, I wheeled over a cart that looks identical to the one pictured below.

If this cart could talk, what might it say?

A woman in my own over-forty-under-death age group, mumbles something incoherent, and makes a point of taking that cart and placing it in front of her own washer that will finish several minutes after mine.  I have a moment of, “Huh?”  I don’t ask questions since this is New York, Loon Capital of America.  As I go to take another cart since there are several to choose from, she gives me the stink eye as if I deliberately took the cart that must have sentimental meaning to her.

Cluster of seen one, seen them all carts - not to everyone!

She elaborately lines it with a white plastic bag, further staking her cart-turf.

My wash finishes and as I load my wet clothes into my new cart, I wonder if she is also going to flash her crazy at me in the direction of the dryer I select even though there are several available?  Normally, I unload the washer and load the dryer at warp speed, and return home until five minutes before my dryer finishes.  As I ponder this next potential confrontation with a dryer, I move so slowly I give the impression that I’m doing Tai Chi, so I look like my own brand of oddball.  The dryer I choose does not set her off, but then I have an even more dreadful thought.  Will she open m y dryer once I leave and pull something out such as a sock?  If I were to enter her abode, would I discover mountains of lost socks belonging to laundromat patrons she’s targeted?

Me (thinking):  Am I in the presence of the Missing Sock She-devil?

If so, how inconvenient for I do need to return home to retrieve my laundry bag. I am now loading my dryer Tai Chi-style, but I’m also waiting for her wash to finish.  When it does, I notice that she doesn’t use the plastic bag lined cart she took away from me.  She removes her wet clothes by hand and carries them to a dryer.

The music from The Twilight Zone plays on the iPod in my head.

Then, a miracle happens.  She leaves!  The combination of my intuition and infinite paranoia suspects her departure could be brief.  Even though she has timed her dryer for almost half an hour, I sense she is going to return much sooner.  I race home, grab this week’s issue of The New Yorker along with my laundry bag, and boomerang back at warp speed.  Within minutes of my return, Missing Sock She-devil is back, too.  There are two other women, one folding and the other, a woman in her early twenties, loading her wet clothes into a dryer. Missing Sock She-devil now focuses her wrath on the woman half her age.

Me (thinking):  What the hell has she done? Leave my daughter alone!

Then, I recall I’m both not this young woman’s mother and I’m also a dedicated non-breeder.  Once the young woman has inserted her quarters into her dryer she leaves the premises.  Missing Sock She-devil removes her clothes from her dryer, even though her load appears to be damp, and her machine still has fifteen minutes to go.  She could have given those minutes to the young woman.  As she walks past me, I resist having myself beaten to within an inch of my life with a bottle of bleach by asking:

Me:  Helped yourself to any socks lately?

Lame Adventure 162: Intelligence — Artificial and Lacking

Anyone who was remotely surprised that IBM’s supercomputer Watson swept the floor with the two best-of-Jeopardy! human competitors must ride New York City transit, particularly the subway.  Why the subway?  The subway is liberally populated with boneheads as well as the mentally deranged; the exact types that would give brainy nerds the edge over the son of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal.  Also, what is it with Watson’s cheery-eerie calm voice?  These brilliant engineers can create a stupendous storehouse of knowledge, but they can only create a creepy voice straight out of science fiction for it?  If IBM had the foresight to consult me about Watson’s voice, I would have urged them to make Watson sound like Dusty Springfield.  She managed to make the first “the” in The Look of Love sound like tantric sex.  Meow!  Yet, everything about Watson had to resemble the dullest geek with a crusty tube sock stashed in the nightstand.

This has been a memorably annoying week commute-wise for I have managed to miss my train into or out of work every single day thanks to the inconsideration of fellow riders.  Going into work on Monday, the bad karma I earned for shoving Edith Blicker off first base in the schoolyard playground (note: Edith was my friend and the only kid smaller than me) in second grade finally caught up with me forty-odd years later.  That morning in the heart of rush hour, I stood amongst the freshly washed masses in the densely crowded 72nd Street subway station, waiting for my turn to enter the turnstile.  Unfortunately, thanks to that moment of playground aggression, just as I heard my downtown express train entering, I found myself stranded behind a woman feeding a fistful of expired Metrocards through the turnstile.  When she exhausted her supply, I heard my train going.  As much as I loathed her, I did not shove her.

Wednesday morning I drew the short straw when I hotfooted across the platform at 14th Street station to a waiting 1 local only to find myself pursued by the 14th Street Lunatic.  This was my reward for rocketing into that train and forgetting to look where he might be lurking.   Naturally, he perched himself next to where I was sitting and proceeded to jump around, wave his arms wildly, smack a woman’s newspaper out of her hands before stripping off his coat, sweater and shirt, dropping them to the floor and then ranting in fluent gibberish.  I was trying to read an article in The New Yorker about Scientology, but my comprehension was interrupted by a single phrase playing inside my head like a mantra, “Don’t make eye contact with him, don’t make eye contact with him, don’t make eye contact with him.”  He kicked all of his clothes out the door at Houston Street and followed his outerwear just as the doors were shutting.  I muttered:

Me:  Have a nice day.

Fast-forward to Thursday evening’s ride home, I entered behind a bottleneck of commuters in the Chambers Street station.  Between a sprawling homeless woman encamped on the floor on a stairwell landing and a mountainous woman standing frozen in the middle of that stairwell’s opposite side yammering on her cell phone, I and several others missed our train trying to maneuver around these obstacles.  For the life of me I will never understand the appeal of planting oneself like a tree stump in the middle of a subway station stairwell during rush hour to talk on the phone.  The popularity of doing this in the Chambers Street station seems to be on the rise.  Word must be out that this is the go-to station to visit if you have an itch to conduct an epic cell phone conversation about nonsense in a public space.

Unrelated to any stupidity inflicted upon me by fellow riders, on Tuesday morning I managed to inflict myself with a hefty dose of my own making.  Upon exiting the 1 local at my destination, Franklin Street station,  instead of hearing the conductor announce the usual:

Conductor:  Next stop, Chambers Street station.

My faulty ears heard:

Conductor:  Next stop, President Dick Cheney station.

That was infinitely more disturbing than the sound of Watson’s voice.

Watson's avatar supposedly smiling. Yeah. Sure. Right.

Lame Adventure 147: Roger Federer’s Family Jewels

While continuing to advance at the Qatar Open this week, tennis maestro, Roger Federer, hit another between the legs shot winner.  The crowd went wild.  See below:

One day someone will likely assemble a highlight reel of the many variations of this extraordinary shot by this extraordinary athlete.  If this highlight reel exists today, I could not find it on YouTube.

As much as I enjoy seeing this shot, it scares me a bit, too, possibly because I know that I am a closet klutz.  Recently, while walking down the subway station’s steps, en route to work, I narrowly missed tripping over a woman’s gargantuan handbag that she was carrying so low, it could have doubled as a weapon of major destruction.  Had I caught my foot in her elephantine-sized satchel, I would have taken a flying leap down the rest of the concrete stairs, broken my nose and probably several select slow healing bones, as well as shattering my glasses, before tumbling onto the tracks into the third rail, and proceeding to fry to death while suffering extreme embarrassment.  I listened to my inner mother’s warning to resist doing anything idiotic, and ignored the urge to pass this blockade on feet but by practicing restraint, I did miss my train.

Back to daredevil Roger, I know well that he is an elite athlete, and although I am not a male of the species, my ovaries always jump into my throat a little whenever I consider the tragic consequences if Fed did the unthinkable, misjudged the speeding ball and hit it high.

<Shudder>

That horrifying mis-hit, and the viral video that would surely follow, would truly redefine the meaning of “the shot heard round the world.”

Fortunately, this living legend has already fathered twins.

The tennis world's Fred Astaire, Fed, and Gene Kelly, Rafa, pressing the flesh; will they finally meet in the US Open this year?

Lame Adventure 146: Back to the Daily Grind

Tuesday was my first day back at work following my seventeen-day hiatus.  Due to the mountains of garbage bags piled high on the sidewalk because trash collection has been hindered since December 26th’s epic snowstorm, there was a very narrow lane to walk enroute to the 72nd Street subway station.  I could have done what a guy in a trench coat did – walk in the middle of West 73rd Street, but this is New York, where oncoming traffic speeds up even if you’re in the sidewalk with the walk signal on your side.  I had zero desire to wind up road kill on my first day back at the grind in the New Year.  Therefore, I was stuck walking up the narrow swath of sidewalk behind a drip of woman with a little less sensuality than Olive Oyl – no thought provoking fantasies playing in my head there, unless trampling her counts.  She walked so slowly, she could have been a Yugo stuck in park.  I felt myself feeling a tad anxious:

Me (what I wanted to scream):  Move your boney ass, girlfriend!  I’d like to get to work before the weekend!

Me (thinking):  Calm down.  Don’t set off your gastritis.  So you might be a little late.  It’s not the end of the world.

I entered the subway station – just as the packed express train heading downtown was pulling out and a local with empty seats had entered.  I hopped on the local.  This I only do when I’m not running late, but today I thought, “Screw it.  I want to read my New Yorker.”  I worked my way over to two guys hogging four seats – the death defying dude in the trench coat and a chub built like Buddha.  I could feel Buddha reading over my shoulder, but when I opened my magazine to the massively wordy The Talk of the Town section, he re-focused his gaze on material more suited to his interests, a discarded Kit Kat wrapper lying on the floor.

With the theme from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon playing on my internal iPod, an orchestration I would appreciate played at my funeral (click the link; it’s well worth a listen), I exited the train at my Tribeca stop and low-tailed to my place of employ a full ten minutes late.

When I enter, who do I see standing at the front desk, leafing through her pile of mail?  Elsbeth, my boss.  Since I have been the middle finger of her right hand going on seven years, and this is the first time she has seen my scowling face in eighteen days, if she’s aware that I’m late, she doesn’t mention it.  I approach her.

Me:  Happy New Year, Boss.

Elsbeth:  Looks like someone went through the mail while I was away.

I normally retrieve her mail when I enter.  My Lord and Master hands a stack of junk to her husband to discard.

Elsbeth:  Happy New Year.  Did you have a nice vacation?

Me:  Yes.  Did you?

Elsbeth:  Yes.

It is evident that my leader is feeling as morose as me about being back.  Comforting.

Elsbeth and I are given an elevator ride up to our fifth floor office, so I’m spared having to climb five flights of stairs; the highlight of my day.  We enter the office where we greet the staff.  Everyone looks dour.  I mingle with my two closest buddies, Ling and Greg, and although I’m truly happy to see them, we’re all in agreement that it sucks to be back.

By early afternoon, the bane of my existence, the printer, has begun jamming incessantly.

Did you miss me?

By day’s end, I’m ready for another seventeen days off.