Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Subway Meltdown

There are many things I love about summer in New York City. Let me count some of them. The sun in my face as I walk the City streets. The sand in my toes when I escape to the beach. Less clothing on the ladyfolk (including H., who is quite sexy in the summertime), which provides for more enjoyable gandering opportunities, or "G-ops," if you want to get all Desert Storm about it. And Thursday night drinks with co-workers at a local watering hole, where the fed-up proletariat gathers outside to celebrate the near-end of the workweek.

There are also a few things that I find not-so-nice about summer in New York. The first thing that comes to mind is that stinking melange of urine, dog poo, B.O., and garbage that wafts up from the street on those unfortunate days when there is no rescuing breeze to carry the stench to the Hudson or East Rivers. I also detest the fact that I actually have to work during the summertime. I hate looking out my office window to see people outside, enjoying sunny, happy days while I am forced to remain inside, toiling for the Man in my jail cell.

But topping the naughty list, by far, is the summer subway commute. By the time I get to work on most summer days -- particularly on those days when I actually have to wear a suit -- I need 3 showers because I am a complete, sweaty mess. Today is a fine example. I now live in Williamsburg, and it's about a half mile walk to either the L train on Bedford or the J/M/Z train on Marcy Avenue. The J train has been pissing me off lately because it's been running a half hour late due to work on the subway lines that some bureaucrat decided he would impose just to aggravate me. So today I decided to walk to the L train. At 9:25 a.m.

Now, I didn't have a suit on today, but it didn't matter. The sun was beating down, humidity today is like 81%, and by the time I got to the L train, I was already starting to feel damp in my special places. Not a pleasant feeling. So, I traipsed down the steps to the L train and quickly saw that it was wall-to-wall people. Hipsters, Latinos, suits, tourists, nannies. "Fucking great," I muttered to myself. I immediately regretted the day's choice of subway lines, but upon reflection, I knew deep down that if I had chosen the J/M/Z, it would have been wall-to-wall people on that platform, and the L train would have been running free, clear, happy, and devoid of people. That's how things work. It's T.'s Law.

Realizing that it was going to be one of "those commutes," I reluctantly resigned myself to my fate and turned up my iPod as Whitesnake kicked in (hey, it was on shuffle mode). The subway platform was a little cooler than outside, so I had that going for me. The train arrived within minutes, and it was just crammed with people, like penned-in cattle. Or pigs. Yeah, pigs is more like it. I followed the crowd in with little bitty steps forward and managed to make it in. I learned quickly that this was no reward. My arm snaked between two people-heads, and I grabbed a pole with three fingers just before the train lurched forward. I felt a little bad for the short, stylish Asian dude whose salt and pepper head was lined up perfectly with my right, damp armpit. "I've been there man," I thought to myself. Fortunately for him, after my shower this morning, I made liberal use of both my deodorant and cologne. Perhaps a subconscious part of me knew that today would be trouble, and I would want to put my best stink forward.

Back to the train. As we proceeded ssssllllloooowwwly to the first stop, First Avenue in Manhattan, I felt the feather "whisk, whisk" of something on the back of my head and a similar sensation on my left arm, which was hanging down near my waist for easy iPod access. I looked down and around and saw that I was surrounded by not one, but two morons, who apparently thought that a crammed, sweaty subway train was a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely read of their respective newspapers, both of which were being held open nice and wide for easier reading. I suppressed my immediate urge to (a) "accidently" stick my hand or whole arm in the middle of what they were reading; or (b) ask them if they were enjoying their papers, and if I could get them a latte or perhaps a mint julip.

The train stopped twice for 5 minutes each before we got to First Avenue. Five minutes on a subway, when you're sweating like a rabid dog, is an eternity. Ten minutes is long enough to turn you into Son of Sam. The first time we stopped, I closed my eyes and tried to meditate my crappy surroundings away. "Serenity now," I said over and over to myself. "Peace," "appreciation," "om," none of this shit was working. I opened my eyes, and we still weren't moving. I fantasized to myself, "What if we were all on our way to extermination and this was our last ride? There would be no escape. We would be screwed." Sick bastard. Hey, that's what my mind does when I'm hot and pissed off.

I thought about all the work I had to do, how I blew off work the entire weekend, how there was no fucking reason we weren't moving, and how I would like to kill someone right there, right now. I'll start with the two morons with the newspapers. Perhaps a headbutt to get things going and then maybe a fist to the . . . .

Oh good, we're moving. Phew, just in time. I might have done something regretful.

By the time I switched trains at Union Square, I was feeling human again. I almost didn't care about the fact that my face was flooded with condensation and I had wet, blue patches coming through my shirt. I finally got to my office building, collapsed on my chair, shut my door, and waited for the stagnant office air to dry me off.

Can't wait to do this again tomorrow. Maybe I'll try the J train.


megan said...

freakin hilarious.

T. said...

My first commenter... gracias.

Stuart Brooks said...

Loved the entry and it reminded me why I'll never leave my small studio apt. on the UES two blocks from the subway (you know the building). I fucking hate summer. Everywhere.

In Texas, I would take a frozen bottle of water with me to work in the morning just so I could press it against my neck and head for relief. At Texas Rangers baseball games, I would buy and consume three lemon chills as soon as I got to the game. I'm convinced that it brought my core body temperature down.

Here in Moldova, where ice and air conditioning don't exist and people are convinced that if you open a window in a moving vehicle, the "current" (instead of perhaps, the smoking and heavy drinking) will make you sick, I am suffering.

I say you join the NYSC right in the Met building, pack your clothes in a bag, and jump on that cool new bike of yours to get to work. Shower up after the ride and life is good. And you won't have to deal with those newspaper-reading bastards.

Or just buy a silver Vespa with a cool ass black helmet and get to work that way. The breeze will feel nice and you'll be one of those cool Italian guys who ride scooters and get all the chicks.