Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My 11 Most Common Mistakes On the NYC Subway

It is no secret by now that the myriad improvements and advances foisted upon our civilization have, in many cases, served to pull people further apart, rather than bring them together. This sort of paradoxical isolation is desperately apparent on the New York City subway, where people are packed tightly within inches of each other's faces, but no one says a word. I'm notably bad at navigating situations like this, so naturally, I make a lot of mistakes on the subway.

11. Talking to someone you only kinda know

Ah, jeez... this is rough. Maybe you see them on the platform two seconds before the train comes, maybe they sit down across from--whatever the case they always seem to be going at least one stop further than you, so you're guaranteed a full ride of awkward recapitulations of the three or four details you remember about their lives. ("Hey... so... you were going to Costa Rica for a while, right? Oh... Indonesia. I remember now. Three years ago, you say? Huh. So it's been that long... wait, I saw you when? Two months ago? This very same subway! Well, I'll be.") And at the end, I always say something dumb and overly-sad-to-be-leaving-their-company like, "Hope to see you soon again, sometime soon... this was really special. I mean, I was looking forward to this--seeing you randomly, I mean. We should do it again, but this time we'll plan it. Dinner, or perhaps a marriage?" Then, before you know it, you're not only talking to someone you only kinda know, you're friggin' engaged, too. Oh, folks... I've made many mistakes.

10. Waiting on the wrong side of the car for the doors to open
Why don't I just wear a goddamn shirt that says, "I don't live here and that means that I don't know the difference between local and express stops. I bet I'd make an easy target for armed robbery. Also, if you asked me which way to 'the museum', I would mostly respond in broken English, with a few snatches of Hungarian." Then, once I've made this mistake, I usually make a face to anyone who has noticed that's kinda says, "Trust me, I have bad shit going on in my life--this door confusion is just the tip of the iceberg." Most people sort of smile reassuringly.

9. Getting too caught up in your iPod/phone and blocking the doors
I have a slight dependency on the Solitaire extra on my Nano, sometimes to the detriment of my own safety. I'm not proud, but I don't see it changing anytime soon. I'm convinced that at some point, a representative from Apple will come and give me the $12,000 I've won so far.

8. Losing the Express v. Local bet
Honestly, there needs to be a government funded, massively staffed, universally publicized study on what times/days/months it makes sense to take the express between certain locations and when it makes sense to stay local. I spend most of my days thinking I've made the wrong choice.

7. Verbally acknowledging you have missed your stop
This usually happens in conjunction with #9... I beat my best time for iPod solitaire just as the train chugs away from 50th Street, "AW CRAP! I think... I don't live on 42nd--I live like, five streets away from there... I'm gonna have to walk an extra two blocks to get home! Plus, the 42nd Street station is full of yahoos and ethnics--I won't fit in whatsoever... This has sent my day down a terrifying spiral of uncertainty. What if I get confused while walking up--NOTE, up not down--8th Avenue? What if my confusion leads to me stopping at Auntie Ann's Pretzels and buying a carton of frozen pretzels covered in frozen mustard!? I don't have the money for that transaction!!!" I usually sum up this string of cognitions with a good, piercing "Gah!", followed by a disgusted clap of the hands, and possibly a quiet aside to the Asian couple next to me, "That was my stop..."

6. Doing anything over the shoulder
Most people just read, but I have been known to critique crossword-solving-style. And once I asked if I could try someone's corndog. IT LOOKED REALLY TASTY, OKAY?!

5. Trying too hard to read a funny ad that is partially obscured by someone's head
This is just a recipe for disaster and despair, and not the good kind of recipe that you get out of The Joy of Cooking... it's a recipe you googled because you were pressed for time and don't even own The Joy of Cooking, because guess what, you are not a cook! So by the time it's ready to eat disaster and despair, your kitchen is going to be half covered in flour and half on fire, most of your fingers will have been burned to some degree, and you will no longer be hungry, but you will be drunk. Drunk on self-pity.

Anyway, if you try to hard to read a funny advertisement that is partially obscured by someone's head, there is a good chance that that person will think you are flirting with them and then you'll have to deal with that.

4. Making eye contact with an obviously not single person
...Because immediately after than happens, you make eye-contact with their boyfriend, and his eyes are angry and full of fire. He's wearing a shirt that says "I Fuck Up Bigger Dudes Than You" and holding a falafel like a club. You have pissed this man off. Your eyes go into evasive action, but here's the thing... that bullshit about the eyes being the windows to the soul? Well, um, like I just said, it's bullshit. Your eyes are scattering about, trying to convey such pleading sentiments as "I'm sorry, bro... I was reading your girl's shirt. It seemed funny, but not in a sexual way!" or "I was staring off into the middle distance and your significant other happened to get in the way!" or, as a last resort, "I am gay?" Unfortunately, it just looks like you are having a seizure.

3. Getting a phonecall from someone who sucks and then NOT losing signal
Whoever made it possible for cellphone reception to permeate the deep, dark, mole-person infested tunnels below Manhattan surely thought that they were doing the tech-addicted hordes of this city a favor. Well, here's the thing. Used to be I'd get one of those freak calls and I could be all, "Oh, hey... I'm in the subway, I'm probably gonna lose... {click!} service." (In this example, in which my life is a sitcom, I lose service before I actually say "service", and then I mug to the camera, noting the hilarity.) But now, here's what happens: "Oh, hey... I'm actually on the subway, so I'm probably gonna lose... {pause} yeah, I'm still here. Yeah, I dunno, I guess it'll go out any second, though. Y'know, I probably can't answer that because of that thing I said about the signal. Right, but you probably won't get to give me your whole address before we lose the connection, so I don't think I can make it to your party. Thanks for reminding me th--123 W. 23rd? Apt. 3B? Hmm. Well, I don't really know what time it starts, and since I'm under--9 o'clock. Hmm. Rather early for a party, but I guess since now I know all the details, I'm bound by law to attend. Well, fuck. Oh, you have to go? You're getting on the subway... I gotcha. Um. Bye?" You guys. I went to that party. It BLEW.

2. Being a skinny person who still manages to take up two seats
You guys--I don't like being touched. It's not an obsessive thing or a compulsive thing or a conjunction thereof, I just have this thing about letting my thighs touch the thighs of complete strangers. Even where there are two layers of pants separating the thighs. So, to avoid this sort of thing, when I ride the subway alone, I clench myself into a little ball so I don't touch the people sitting next to me. Of course, after work, I'm usually too tired to clench, so I have developed a solution: if I sit on two contiguous seats, I look like a jackass-jerk, and no one wants to do a jackass-jerk the kind service of sitting next to him. Oh, this is surely symbolic of something.

1. Falling asleep
Hahahahokay here's one that I actually didn't do. (Well, fine, I fell asleep on a G train platform once, but that had way more to do with how shitty the G train is, than it had to do with my inability to function properly as a real human adult. ) Once, this guy I know, who we will call for anonymity's sake Shmatrick Figgiston, went to a party. At this party, he drank a whole bunch of punch. Why did he drink a bunch of punch? Because it was a party for the kind of people who think a fun thing to do is to make really, really potent punch that basically tastes like all the juices mixed together with a hint of gasoline. Am I saying it was a party for date rapists? Not quite. Anyway, Shmatrick had been at the Belmont Stakes earlier in the day and barely remembered what it was like to be a sober guy of Catholic upbringing. At one point, he was trying really hard to speak French. That was around the time I left. APPARENTLY, dude gets on the subway at 3 AM or so, rides for a while, falls asleep around 34th Street and wakes up, a few hours later at 42nd. HE WENT AROUND THE LOOP! This is the Manhattan equivalent of circumnavigating the globe! Then, he proceeds to fall BACK asleep... and wake up at the Kings Highway stop out in Brooklyn... which, to be fair, is close-ish to where he lives. I forget the details after this point, but the moral of the story is, Shmatrick got home at 9 AM and somewhere between 3 and 9, many people probably took pictures of him with their balls on or near his face.

For this, I submit Shmatrick Figgiston for consideration for Balla of the Year.


Rob said...

Schmatrick = Benny Profane. [does a dance that I do when I ref awesome things]

erin siobhan said...

wait like the G train of bedstuy and marcy playground fame? ... you've made better choices.

El Gigante said...


You know what chant it's time for:

Peter said...

Rob: I just did the dance I do when you do the dance you do when you ref awesome things!

Erin: I have and I don't apologize for it!

Rami: TRUE TO FORM! TRUE TO FORM! Isn't that guy turning 26 or something? TRUE TO FORM!

Football Chick said...

That punch was death.

Rob said...

what is even going on over here