I spend a lot of time on the subway — and it’s not always pleasant. Crowded cars where your body is smooshed against someone else’s (99% of the time, it’s a body you’d rather not be smooshed against). Screeching subway wheels. Loud talkers. Loud headphones (How are you not deaf yet?!)…or worse, the person who doesn’t use headphones, but instead shares their love of indecipherable rap with the entire car. Funky smells (lack of deodorant, lack of showering, lack of awareness that fast food in confined spaces wreaks, or maybe just a lack of caring that it smells like death…) from a variety of sources that reach your nose before your eyes are able to find the offender. Basically, anything subway-related that is found HERE should give you a sense of possible sources of annoyance.
Despite all the noise, delays, smells, and grime, the NYC transit system is pretty darn amazing. It moves 8.5 MILLION people a day. That is incredible. It gets me to work and back home approximately 250 days a year in a relatively painless way for less than $2.50 a ride. This little system can get me from the tip of Battery Park to the top of Inwood, even off this crazy islands, into any of the crazy boroughs, by subway, bus, and even tram (which is kind of fun if you’re in no hurry).
Considering how frequently I use the subway, in order to maintain a sense of well-being, I try not to concentrate on the annoyances. Focusing on them does not make them go away and would just make me grumpy (er…grumpier?). Instead, it’s more fun to look for the amusing, and often bemusing, aspects of public transit.
For example, on my way to work the other morning, as expected, a crowded E train pulls up to the 7th Ave station. I learned early on that my polite Midwestern demeanor would do me no favors in dealing with New Yorkers. When a crowded train pulls into the station, after patiently waiting for those exiting to move, you go ahead and shove yourself in with the rest of the masses – doesn’t matter how many snide comments the sassy lady makes, or how many dirty looks the passive aggressive guy gives you. Anyway, back to this crowded E train. It’s the last car (always more crowded than the rest) and four of us Tetris ourselves into any open space we can find, all holding our collective breath and not moving until the doors close and we can exhale and “settle” into our cramped quarters for the next two minutes. Standing next to me were two of the people who had crammed into the car with me – one completely oblivious to his surroundings. Mr. Oblivious apparently could not break from his iPad and had it at eye-level, with his ear buds in. This would normally be fine, except that the other guy, of about equal height had the pleasure of having the back of Mr. Oblivious’ iPad about 2 inches from his nose. The poor guy and I made eye contact and both smiled as we had one of those instantaneous telepathic conversations (Guy: “Can you believe this dude?!” Me: “Some people are SO delightfully unaware of their inconsideration.” Guy: “Thank goodness most people in this car will be getting off in a minute so I can get my face away from this jerk’s iPad!” Me: “Sorry, dude – let’s hope the train doesn’t lurch forward or you’ll have an Apple-shaped imprint on your forehead….”)
It’s those little connections that remind you that some of the people on that train with you are actual human beings…and not just human-shaped obstacles. (Yes, I said some. The jury is still out on the rest of the passengers.)
And then the other night, when I was exiting the train, I came across these gems: vandalized ads.
On their own, they’re not overly hilarious, but they were just so unexpected and after a great night out with a friend, I was in a good mood and they made me laugh. Benign vandalism, when done cleverly and tastefully, does that to me sometimes. (So does cussing – but only when done cleverly and tastefully.)