Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Train in Vain

What is it about riding the train that makes people abandon all common courtesy? Each day I take the long commute in from Long Island, and transfer to the subway for my trip into the office. Soon, I'll be down to riding one train directly from Brooklyn, and I'm looking forward to the shorter commute. In the meantime, however, I spend most of my ride in watching people. For example, there is one guy who gets on the train in Hicksville. He's about 5'4 and has one of those faces that you hate for no reason at all. In fact, I'd bet that he spent a lot of time in school getting beat up and having his lunch money stolen. Every morning, he lines up at the door and bulls his way past everyone, knocking aside anyone who dares get in the way of him and a seat. The train isn't all that crowded, so there really isn't any rush, but he does it anyway. As soon as he sits down, he takes off his jacket, makes in into a pillow, curls up in the fetal position and falls asleep. As the train rolls into Penn Station, he leaps up in order to be among the first standing at the door, and runs up the stairs. I used to think he was in a hurry to get to work, but now I think he's afraid because he seems to have annoyed most of the people in the car. In fact, for the past few weeks, I've watched the animosity build between him and another guy who he regularly pushes past. It's going to get ugly really soon. Otherwise, the train is filled with people who think of it as an extension of their living room. They spread there belongings around in a desperate attempt to keep anyone from sitting next to them. They clip their nails, hold loud phone conversations, throw their trash on the floor and do a million other things they would never think of doing in any other public place. A few weeks ago, I was treated to the sight of a woman giving herself a pedicure in the seat next to me. Needless to say, I couldn't eat for the rest of the day.

The subway isn't much better. Everyone crowds by the doors leaving the middle of the train relatively empty. Rather than moving further into the car, and losing their precious door space, people just move an inch or two at each stop, forcing people to squeeze in. This morning, as we approached my stop, there was a guy sitting in the seat in front of me. (Before you ask, the answer is yes, I was one of the people crowding the door. I didn't say I don't do it, I just said it annoys me that others do the same thing.) As the train slowed to a stop, he started to stand up, jockeying for position as if we were fighting for a rebound at a pickup basketball game. Generally, I would step back and let him go, but I'm not in the best mood today. Instead, I stayed in place, forcing him to wait to stand up. Rather than doing so, he began to contort his body so that he would be able to maneuver out of the door as soon as it opened. This left him in the awkward position of crouching while facing the seat, with his feet spread sideways and his torso leaning against the arm rest. The only thing holding him up was the press of bodies around him. If we all took one half step back, he would have fallen and likely been trampled by the crowd rushing to be first up the escalator. I just don't understand.

Anyway, rough night last night. Lots of bad memories came flooding back from the dark recesses of my subconscious. I think I'll do some work to try to distract myself.