Main | Thursday, December 15, 2005

Train Tribulations

Gentle readers, I am Mister Politeness on the subway. I never block the door, I always move to the center of the car. I'm careful with my backpack and my umbrella and my newspaper, and if I ever actually got a seat, I would definitely give it up to a pregnant lady.

But this morning I punched a 78 year old man.

I was trying to squeeze onto the 6 train and had just made it across the threshold, when I felt two fists pushing hard on my kidneys. Without turning around, I swung my right hand behind me and slugged the person behind me. I've never done anything like that, but it was an instinctual reaction both to being startled and to the pain.

My assailant was a short, dapper man in a floor length cashmere coat. He was wearing a fedora and had oversized black glasses. He reminded me of a male Carrie Donovan, whom you may best remember from her Old Navy commericals. The doors shut behind us, leaving me now scrunched up against the person I just had clobbered.

He screeched at me, "Vat's da matta? You tink you are untouchable?"

I said, "No, I think pushing like that is rude and unnecessary." I turned away from him as much as I could.

From a few feet away I heard a man with a Russian accent tell the old man, "Hey mister, it's too early to be acting like that."

The old man said, "I'm 78 years old. What do I know from early?"

The Russian man said, "Well if you wanna see 79, you need to chill. You're lucky he's a peaceful man over there."

The old man made one of those dismissive old man noises. "Feh!" or "Meh!" You know what I'm talking about. And then he got out at 59th Street. All that to ride one stop.

*****

The other day I got a letter from my Congresswoman. It's kinda neat that I live in a neighborhood, that has its own Congressperson. In the letter, she tries to rally support for the construction of the 2nd Avenue subway line, desperately needed due to the overcrowding on the Lexington line, which every day carries more passengers than the combined ridership of the entire San Francisco, Boston and Chicago transit systems.

The East Side used to have two elevated lines, on 2nd Avenue and on 3rd, but those were dismantled in the 40's after the neighborhood became so posh that residents had the clout to have the noisy trains removed. I was thinking how cool it would be too have a subway line right on my corner, until I read that construction will be going until 2017. I seriously doubt that I'll be living on the East Side when the residents get to enjoy their new subway line.

******

Tonight at 12:01am, the MTA Transit Workers Union is set to go on strike, crippling the city at the height of the holiday shopping and travel season. The mayor is encouraging people to sleep in their offices. No personal cars will be allowed in Manhattan below 95th Street. Cabs will be allowed to pick up multiple fares, DC-style.

The last strike was in 1980, in warm weather. Tonight we are expecting a snowstorm.

This will be interesting.

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