Are you Subway Crazy? Am I Train Insane? If you’re reading this, then probably not. I’m not trying to brown nose you, I’m just thinking Subway Crazy doesn’t spend the time to read. Train Insane don’t care.
I got out of work the other night and was on the Q train to Canal street, making my connection to the J. The thing with Canal Street is, it’s a busy hub, but it doesn’t seem to have been planned very well. Union Square and Times Square are busier hubs, with more train lines, but they also have more clear cut divisions between those lines. At Canal street, when you exit the Q, you keep walking to the end of the tunnel for the J, and the 4/5/6 line is right before that. When you come from the J to the Q during morning rush hour, you have to battle everyone exiting the Q and coming up the narrow stairs as you try to go down the stairs and inevitably watch the doors close and the Q train pull away. Around midnight, it’s not as crowded, but there are plenty of people around. As I was making my way to the J train home a week ago, this couple was wandering back and forth on the platform, in search of the right way to go. He was wasted, beyond drunk, I’m not sure what he had been up to that night, but he was stumbling around while she yelled at him and they tried to figure out where to go. I walked by as they looked at the stairs to the 4/5/6 and made my way 20 feet further for the stairs to the J.
In their defense, it is pretty confusing, and I was mystified by it a few times sober when I first got to the city. The trains travel a little slower at night, and after waiting about ten minutes I heard the couple making their way up the stairs. She was still berating him as he reminded himself how to put one foot in front of the other and eventually get to the top of the stairs.
It’s fun to watch peoples’ reactions to other people in the subway, because there’s such a variety of human life forms thrown together in this city that sometimes people get wrapped up in themselves at look at everyone else thinking “What a bunch of weirdos.”
In this case, the couple was turning heads and making the commuters readjust their locations on the platforms. Their relationship reminded me of the chicken and the egg conundrum. Was he a drunk because she was a bitch? Or was she a bitch because he was a drunk? Either way they traveled like a hurricane and kicked out a big wake. That’s subway crazy.
A night or two later I was leaving home to head out for the evening. I was starving and grabbed a sandwich at the deli and was at my stop eating while waiting for the train. The other guy at my bench was reeling forward trying to fight gravity with a couple of prescription bottles that kept falling out of his hands. He was a mess of opiate proportions, but he somehow managed to get on the train. I was too hungry to care that I had jumped on the same car, and as I ate I watched him deteriorate even further.
Then this beggar was making his rounds through the train. You see many of these guys, some seem pretty bad off, others you wonder if that’s just how they like to get money; anyway, this guy comes up and asks me for money or food. Not quite done with the first half of my sandwich, I offered him the other half. It was untouched and unwrapped. He takes it, but instead of thanking me, or leaving, or both, he proceeds to ask me what’s on it.
“Chicken parmesan. Chicken. Tomato sauce.”
“Does it have mustard on it?”
“I don’t think they put mustard on chicken parmesan.”
Now he’s thumbing through the sandwich like he’s about to shuffle a deck of cards.
“What is it?”
“Chicken parmesan. Chicken. Tomato sauce. Mozzarella.”
“Does it have mustard?”
“What’s wrong? You don’t like mustard?”
“There’s no mustard on it.”
“I don’t want it.”
He tries to hand it back to me.
I wave him off.
“Are you serious? You ask me for food. I offer you food. And now you don’t want it? Get outta my face!”
“Um, do you have a bag?”
Beggar man wanders off and the Pill Popper is on all fours looking under the seats. He thinks he’s dropped his pills, but he can’t find anything and he’s scouring the ground as people recoil in fear and disgust and he gets near them. The young couple across from me is giggling at him and as he stands up and bends over to the ground he flashes hairy ass crack our direction and we all make the AAAAWWWWWW! face of horror and laugh.
That is Train Insane.
Then a few days later, I’m leaving work and its a really hot night. The tunnels under Times Square are steaming, but the Q train shows up quick and I’m happy to get into somewhere with some AC. The seats are pretty full, but the corner two seater has just one person, a 20 something kid with a lot of luggage with him and he’s semi lying down. So I stand nearby and after a few minutes it appears his hand is working its way towards the front of his waistband. Then he seems to be making a repetitive motion back and forth and back and WTF?! The older couple across got up and moved when seats opened up at the next stop, and I was wondering if they had seen something that I thought I was seeing. I wasn’t sure what you do at that point. Tell him to stop? Then I realized he wasn’t spanking the monkey, but he was scratching himself. On the sides, in the front, in the back. I can’t say it was a relief, because then I wondered what kind of crazy skin fungus was going on with this guy. Maybe I should have called a Hazmat team. Once he left at his stop, I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit there.
And finally, today I’m on my way home after a lunch shift, it’s about 3:30. Usually more respectable people during these daytime hours. Well, generally. There’s a big cluster of people, because it’s Times Square and all the tourists stand around at the bottom of the stairs instead of continuing down the platform, and since I just got there as the train did, that’s where I’m stuck. Among the crowd a man is hurriedly entering the front of the train while yelling back to his companion.
“Elaine, this goes to Bridge Street. This goes to Bridge Street! Get on this train!”
And the crowd is entering the train, and I get on the back of the car, while that same excited man is yelling to the dismay of the whole car.
“Elaine! Elaine, did you make it on the train! This goes to Bridge Street!”
I’m not sure what happened to Elaine, and how long ago she ditched the excited man. She certainly wasn’t standing near me. He made his way through the car searching for her, but she was nowhere to be found. The man wore a backpack with an umbrella sticking out of it, had thick glasses that emphasized the fact that his eyes didn’t quite focus in stereo, and had a Bluetooth earpiece. He could have just been your average goofy, dorky, touristy guy, but talking to the Korean lady’s baby before he exited at the next stop didn’t help. Those of us in the know gave each other the look.
“Yep. Subway Crazy.”
I’ve also never heard of this Bridge Street, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a stop on the Q, although I may have misunderstood. But when you’re Subway Crazy, nobody really listens much anyway.
There’s a saying in poker that if you look around the table and you don’t know who’s the mark, then it’s you.
Think about that the next time you ride a New York Subway.