Here’s a first for TGIFF… I decided to put together a string of words for you. This is a story I planned last summer in New York, but never got around to finishing. The best part is, now that I click ‘post’ on this sucker, I am officially a published writer. Oh and the tl;dr is -> there is no Too Lana Del Ray on this one ya lazy slutz :P
Subway Stories by Paco
Stepping off the L train at Broadway Junction I’m greeted by the “boy, you’s lost” look of a thick dame strutting toward the A/C platform in a tee with
printed across her chest. Probably in Arial Black. The huge cemetery field of seemingly randomly strewn crosses is a nice introduction to the subway stop most pretend-Brooklyners sacrifice an extra 20+ minutes transferring somewhere in Manhattan to avoid dealing with when they’re headed out this way.
I’ve spent this sunny day in the depths of NYC’s Metropolitan Transportation Authorities’ massive maze. I’ve shuttled myself up and down Manhattan sparking conversation with any vulnerable sheep I could find in the mass of wonderful, diverse, and not-at-all-creepy tube dwellers all uniformly glazed in a coat of mistrust and social phobia. After a scarce few months in the city, I feel a little lighter knowing I am finally giving back - personally contributing to the weirdness of the underground experience… one of the few factors still keeping New Yorkers in touch and on their toes.
I’ve been on the hunt for stories. Real subway stories. Stories the people sharing your commute every day have experienced. The ones both everyone and no one has heard. If you read the news you’ll find the anomalies; the horror stories; the exceptions to the rule. What I have comprised is a coarse, loosely picked, general collection of wtf moments that define the New York City subway and its people on Friday June 15th, 2012.
If I had to pick a recurring theme, one would definitely be public urination and defecation. Toilets are nowhere to be found in the city in general, and once you’ve hobbled through the turnstile it’s just you, your bladder, and that spiked Slurpee dangling from your hand embarking on a train ride that might as well last forever. One of my interviewees was especially impressed with the art of urinography she had spotted some drunk dude practicing off the edge of the platform. Or the time when a lady all of a sudden opened the emergency escape door, while the train was blasting toward the next stop, hunched down between the two cars, and successfully marked a couple hundred yard stretch of dimly lit tunnel with her scent. Quite courteous if you think about the alternative, and much more common case of in-train leakage. Dodging the very much alive pee amoeba is one of the finer bonding experiences MTA passengers will encounter.
As for full blown number two action, the sightings aren’t quite as numerous, especially if you don’t count the contributions of the homeless troops. But one story did stick. It takes him a while to remember it. He’s a mid-thirties Mexican guy on his commute home. I see him scouring his brain for the memories he has sooner tried to forget than preserve. Then, an amused look lights up his face. “It was a fat lady.. really big, and she’d been sitting there for a long time stuffed between 2 huge bags on both sides of her. I didn’t pay any attention to her until I glanced past her and noticed her staring right at me. So I stared back at her. She started grinning, and that turned into a beaming jack-o’-lantern smile. She reached for something, her hand digging down between her and the bags surrounding her. Without breaking eye contact, it became clear that she found what she was looking for. The smell spreading through the car further enforced my suspicions. She not only shit herself, she was digging around back there, or I guess you could call it wiping, but… no paper… pure poop hands.” Now, I’m no Dr. Lightman, but this guy seemed awfully happy to retell that memory. Maybe it gave him some kind of therapeutical closure. Well, I’m just the messenger!
My paco’s second tale touches on another recurring theme I noticed: rowdy black women. As he and his girlfriend claimed the two remaining seats on a bench, her bag apparently brushed the neighboring occupant. This defiant display of disrespect quickly escalated into loud noises and boyfriends being called up to hurry over and set things straight. They got away, but sometimes unoccupied seats are so for a reason. And, understandably, the same thing goes for the trains. The number one piece of advice I got over and over again was, “when you see an emptyish train car at an otherwise crowded time of day… beware”. Sometimes it’s because someone has, through means of rowdy-black-ladyness, claimed an entire subway car for herself, a True Yorker recalled. Or it’s because what started as a couple of graceful, junkie missionaries out to spread The Word in unison, turns into a heated religious debate when one of them reveals herself to be batshit crazy and possess a fundamentally unique view of Christianity. My source confirms that bibles were thrown.
What else? If you want to flash someone, the underground is your playground! It’s simple, here’s how. Put on your light gray trench coat. Swoop down to the nearest platform and bide your time. Sure enough a train will come along, and there will be people in it. Get on said train and try to locate the most innocent looking face. Establish eye contact. Feel the rush from the anticipation and give in to your urge to smile ear to ear. The doors start to close and you strategically block them with your powerful body. The time has come to expose your inner pain and beauty to that unsuspecting traveller. The weight of the clamping subway door is nothing against your robust, bare flesh. You are magnificent.. you are a lion… you are a king. A second later you cover up, squeeze out, and your bedazzled crime scene is fleeing on its own. Sneer at a poor person, and return to the comfort of your home. Tried and tested by the flashers of NYC!
Overall, the people I talked to agreed that holidays bring out the worst in train travelers. New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a whole years worth of incidents packed into one night. But I have a particular memory from last St. Patrick’s Day. Still giddy from the festivities, we sat down to wait for the train at the Jefferson Street stop. It took a couple minutes for us to notice her, but on the platform across from us, a white girl in her 20s was keeled over on one of the benches. She was making noises like that goblin kid in The Grudge. Highly disoriented and barely even capable of moving her hands, she kept trying to push her skirt and underwear, which were already at her shoes, further down. Blond hair, spensive clothes, twitching, drooling, way past wasted. We figured she must be ODing or having a seizure or something, so I called 911 from one of the pay phones. No cell phone reception ever - another safety perk the subway offers. I give the ma’am a rundown and she tells me, “It’s probably just drugs. There’s nothing we can do.” I try to rephrase the fact that this person is most likely slipping into a coma or dying, but ‘McKayla’ is not impressed. Then I mention that her pants are off and her cooch is showing. This gets a brisk promise of officers on their way, and even a thank you, sir. Nudity is something America takes seriously.
As I lean against the elevated railing of the Broadway Junction station with a dreamy-eyed, smug look on my face, while contemplating what I’ve seen and heard today, I’m interrupted by a mid-twenties black guy who has joined me for the view. Look at all those cops, he says. I look down, and he’s right. The Van Sinderen Avenue entrance is swarming with cops, but not in a hectic way, they look like they’re just enjoying their day. Do cops even do that? He’s not convinced, and goes on and on about the sheer amount of police officers, mostly mumbling to himself. He starts to pace back and forth and gets really anxious. I say something stupid like not to worry about it, but this guy is not having it. He sets off in a light skip (so as not to draw too much attention) towards the exit. Intrigued, I follow him, and catch his mid-flight rant to two officers minding their own business on the platform, “this is fucking crazy, you’re everywhere!” He’s already made it half way across the overpass before they have a chance to reply, so they just shake their heads. But now I, too, am starting to get freaked out by how many cops there are. Fuck this, I just want to get home.