HUMOR BY ELLA STEINBECK
Subway trains can be viewed as an efficient way to move mass numbers of people from point A to point B. They can be viewed as a place where you are held hostage temporarily for 2 or 3 minutes at a time. They can also be viewed as a really bad place to choose to get into a vicious, no-win argument, with someone who may or may not stab you with a knife. In general I think subways fall somewhere between hostage location and a place for dangerous arguing. Moving people from point A to point B is secondary.
I have had more than a handful of arguments on subways and busses in NYC. I think I average six ridiculous arguments with ridiculous people every year. I know it sounds terrible but they start it (I’m totally serious) and I’ve been known to finish it with a very colorful variety of cuss words, my middle finger, and the phrase “YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” Yes, I really did that on my way to the 79th Street and 3rd Avenue stop.
I have a friend who says if you meet ten jerks in a day…well, odds are you’re probably the jerk. I don’t see why one jerk can’t have a very public duel of wits and middle fingers with one or 10 other jerks in a day. Studies have shown that there is a very high jerk to non-jerk ratio. In fact, 1 in every 4 people is a jerk; comparable to the number of people who have herpes.
A high school boy sat next to me on a recent bus ride carrying a hanging suit-bag. He placed the hanger on one of the handles meant for standing passengers. The driver asked him to remove the bag because it was blocking his view. As the boy removed the bag, he yelled at the bus driver calling him the “D” word. Thirty seconds later the boy placed the suit-bag back on the handle!
I realized the poor-thing had no life skills, most likely due to being a spoiled rotten teen-age-boy-child. I spoke nicely to him saying, “You can place it on your lap folded in half. It won’t wrinkle.” He told me that it would wrinkle and he wasn’t going to take it down. I said, “OK, whatever, but you shouldn’t have talked to the bus driver like that. He’s just doing his job.” The woman across from me chimes in saying, “Leave him alone, he’s just a kid.” “Really? You’re going to defend the kid who just told off the bus driver?” I was furious and thought that maybe this was the boy’s mother. The lady and I both got off at the same stop. The boy was not with her. I said, “You’re not his mom?” She said, “No.” I asked her why she would defend his behavior and added “You’re the reason kids grow up to be entitled jerks.” Then I walked away VERY fast.
The subway arguments are often about where I am sitting. I was seated, reading on the C train on a Wednesday night not too long ago, when trouble hit. The car was basically empty. The subway made its usual stop on 72nd Street. Suddenly a guy shoves me over. It took a minute for the unnecessary shove to register, as I had been deeply involved in my book. I looked up and realized that this guy could have sat in 45 other places!
I called him on it. “You could have said excuse me instead of shoving me.” His argument was that I wasn’t being considerate of space because I had my legs crossed in a masculine fashion. Huh? That made no sense whatsoever. So I tried to be rational. “How could I have possibly seen you, or your need to sit right next to me, since I don’t have eyes on the top of my head? All you had to do was say ‘excuse me’.” His response was “You can move.” So my response was “YOU can move!” Neither of us got up. This was war!
We resorted to calling each other every nasty word we could think of. I told him he shouldn’t shove women. He called me ugly and gave me the finger. He finally tired and said, “I don’t have time for this.” I was unrelenting and told him “I could do this all day.”
Sadly enough, I probably would have.