I have been riding the A-Train between the same two stops for a handful of years, now. My routine is pretty much down. I even have backup plans for when something goes awry. For example; in the morning, I know which crack to stand next to, so that I will be in the right spot to get in the door I want, when the train pulls up. Same thing, for the evening. Only, instead of a crack, it is a support beam that I stand next to. If someone is in my spot, I have two back-up spots to stand in and wait. It probably sounds crazy. Actually, it probably is kind of crazy.
Anyway, I have been taking the train in the evening a lot more, since I moved groups at work. I used to pretty much always take a car home, because I would always work pretty late. Even when I didn’t work really late, I was taking the train late enough that it wasn’t rush hour anymore. I had no idea what I was missing. Afternoon rush-hour is complete crap. I hate it, bad. I don’t mean to sound like Max Hall, but I really can’t think of one thing that I like about rush-hour. Not only are there way too many people indignantly shoving their way in and out of the doors, but the freak-meter is off the scale. I mean, they are out in droves. Of course you get your occasional freak, no matter what time of day you are on the train. But during rush-hour, you can’t really avoid them.
This may seem like a petty example, but here is what happened on my way home Thursday evening: I was standing in the very end of the very last car. This dude gets on and posts up right next to me. He is probably late teens/early 20′s. He turns around to look out the back window of the train, and starts gradually shoving me over, so that he can be more squarely positioned in front of the window. Whatever. Not a big deal. I mean, there is a lot of exciting crap to look at back there, in the dark tunnel behind the train. Whatever he was seeing out there must have been pretty inspiring though, because next thin I know, he starts singing to himself. The singing is loud enough that I can hear it over my headphones which are turned up to 11. At first I thought he just got carried away, singing along to the music in his headphones. Oh wait, he isn’t wearing any.
Then this other lady gets on, and asks the woman sitting next to where I’m standing, to give up her seat. The woman obliges, and lets the other lady have her spot. This lady is dragging one of those annoying little backpacks with the rollers on it, the kind that everyone trips over while trying to walk behind them on the sidewalk. She slides her government-worker issued MTA pass back into its little plastic case and sits down in her commandeered seat, while wedging her little wheely bag right between her shins and the side of my leg. Nice. So, now I have aspiring American Idol-boy all up on my left side, and this crazy woman cramping me all up from the other side. The train is so jammed that I can’t really even move to another spot, at this point, without putting someone else out.
Next thing I know, this woman begins to rummage all through her little pack, which seems to be stuffed to capacity with a never ending supply of plastic sacks. Apparently she isn’t finding the right sack, because she rummages for like 3 stops. The whole time I’m blocking the stupid little fully-extended pull handle on her bag from hitting me in the junk, as it wildly swings around during all of the rummaging. Finally, she finds what she is looking for. It is a container of yogurt. She now begins to rummage through her handbag. Eventually she comes up with a plastic knife. Good enough, I guess. She opens the yogurt and drinks out all of that clear stuff that settles at the top. Mmmmm delicious. In the process, she gets a bit white smudge on the end of her nose from the partially peeled back foil at the top of the container. Next, she begins to spoon (knife) the yogurt into her mouth. Her first couple of attempts don’t go too well. The yogurt slides right off of her knife onto her sleeve. No problem she just licks it up. Then she takes a different approach, putting the cup to her mouth and just using the knife to shovel the yogurt in. So amazing.
There was a sudden and particularly loud burst of song that distracted me for a few seconds. When I looked back to my right, she had finished the yogurt and was back to rummaging. I was back to shielding the goods from the flailing handle. Momentarily she came up with yet another yogurt. Nice. At this point she had a substantial amount of white goop on the end of her nose. What harm could a little more do? She downs the second yogurt, plastic knife shovel-style and goes back to rummaging. I go back to shielding. Yellow plastic bags, black plastic bags, white plastic bags. She must have collected one from every bodega in the entire West Village. She finally retrieves a black plastic bag and unties it, to reveal a tupperware containing cut celery. Not too weird.
She opens up the tupperware and starts going to town on the celery. After placing one end of a celery stick in her mouth, she cups the palm of her hand at the other end and pushed it in, about a quarter of an inch with each chomp. It was similar to the way the beavers eat sticks in the old cartoons. She repeats this action with 3 to 5 sticks of celery, until her checks are completely jammed with partially masticated celery. She has one long celery string hanging from her lower lip, down past her chin. All the while, still rocking the goop nose. Over the next 5 minutes she chews that wad of celery.
This ride was taking forever. We stopped twice in the tunnel between 59th and 125th. When we finally arrived at 125, enough people de-trained that I was finally able to extract myself from between the aspiring vocalist and the hungry government worker, to find a less stimulating perch. I need to start working late, again.
[The photo is of the Rector Street stop, on the RW, in late October]