Coverage of me and other train wrecks: my mama, subway nut jobs, sex and the environment.


Grandma Smurf

On my way to work on the F train from Queens to Manhattan. I boarded with one of those "I'm walkin' on sunshine" smiles on my face. A collection of plays by Emily Mann in hand, I walked toward the center of the subway car. (For those who don't know, this is proper train etiquette. It keeps the areas near the doors from becoming cluttered with bodies). I'm standing in the middle holding a vertical bar and I get shoved. When I turn I notice an older woman with thick, big glasses, the kind that forever have trapped her in the 70's, and a moppy hairdo of black cowlicks (dyed with Miss Clairol, I'm sure). She had a baby blue cardigan and a big black handbag. A smurfy grandma if I've ever seen one.

It was okay. She pushed me away to make more room for herself as she stood there in the middle, right behind me. It was rude, but okay. Whatever. I didn't wanna stand there anymore anyway because there was a puddle of still-moist vomit, of the orange chunky kind, in one of the nearby seats and on the floor and it was still gassing up the air with its scent. I moved away from the middle, to a horizontal bar, which is kind of high for my 5'7" body and carpal-tunneled right arm. Nonetheless, I held onto the bar with one hand and onto my book with the other.

Slightly in front of me was an empty seat. So why didn't I sit down? To the left and right of the empty seat were two young guys who must've had very large testicles because their legs were sprawled open, ready for the breeze...or the scent of vomit.

One of my rules about subway riding is that I try not to ask men larger than myself to close their legs in order that I might sit next to them; I prefer letting them take up extra room and thus avoiding backlash. I stood, and was fine standing, and thought that eventually someone would take the empty seat and it would likely be a woman because men always seem to experience testical shrinkage when a woman approaches: usually she won't even have to ask them to make room for her, she'll just appear and their legs will close and suddenly there'll be room for her to sit.

A few minutes went by. The train became more crowded. The seat remained empty.

Then I felt someone pushing slightly behind me and heard "excuse me." I leaned forward, assuming the passerby was making her way to the door in order to get off at the next stop. Because, you know, some people like to walk toward the door before the train actually comes to a stop so that they can be the first outta there. Being first is an important part of our American heritage, so I don't begrudge people who take their marks for the morning race. And I thought this female was doing just that.

The next thing I know, I'm being shoved more aggressively. It's Grandma Smurf and the big black handbag making their way to the empty seat. I lean to the right, clinging to the horizontal bar above me with whatever strength my carpal-tunneled muscles have in them, hoping the train, in motion, won't suddenly jerk me to the ground where I am likely to get a bit of vomitous runoff on my clothes. (train movements cause spilled liquids to spread like pancake batter so the vomit a tthe center of the train wasn't exactly staying there).

Grandma sits in the seat. The men have already retracted their previously sprawling legs. And I stare at her. And she....she STARES BACK. And I'm like, "is this a challenge?" But I think it, I don't say it.

Grandma says "You're supposed to move right or left. There's plenty of room." I just about lose my shit. But I hold it in--I hold my shit in tight and don't lose a single pellet. Instead, I ask her to repeat herself--just to make sure I heard right--and she repeats herself, with more self-righteousness in her retired little voice.

So I apologize in that way that isn't really an apology but rather a way of showing the world what an ass the other person is, but all the while she's arguing her case. She was saying this:

"You have to move. This is rude of you. I'm an old lady and I need to sit and you should pay attention and..." She trails off, because while she's talking I'm using my college speech lessons to out-volume her with:

"I'm sorry. Was I in your way? Because I really do apologize for being SO in your way that you had to PUSH me to get what you wanted. I really am sorry that I didn't know WHAT you wanted, actually. Whether you were moving from one side of the train to another or trying to get to the exit door or whether you were even talking to ME and not someone else when you said 'excuse me.'

So I do sincerely apologize."

And I went back to reading Emily Mann's EXECUTION OF JUSTICE.