Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rush Hour B

Got on a packed B train at 42nd Street yesterday, & was surprised to get a seat.  It was the kind of empty seat that makes you suspicious about your neighbors, but mine seemed tame enough.  We had a conductor who couldn't stop gabbing. His message about sexual harassment was far more animated than the taped voice you usually hear.  Perhaps a bit too animated.  A woman with long stringy hair got on, positioned herself in front of me and hacked so fiercely I was sure she'd cough blood.  Maybe over me. Across the aisle, an elderly ginger headed woman , dressed like a six year old in neon pink, tssked at the coughing woman.  As we proceeded, a female voice from further down the carriage yelled, "Oh my gawd!  This train isn't going to Coney Island?" and a chorus of tired voices sourly replied,  "Yes it is!"  As we crossed over the bridge, between Canal and DeKalb, the trim, neatly dressed woman next to me - in Gucci loafers & a lace trimmed sweater - popped out her phone & made a call.  "Nick?  What happened?  Tell me everything!  You're WHAT?  Oh God!  You're arrested?  What are you arrested for?  WHAT?  Oh God!  We're going underground now.  Keep your phone on you!  I'll call you soon.  Oh God, Nick!"
For the rest of my stay on the train, she buried her head in her hands.  I tried not to look.  I wanted to say something vaguely comforting, but was smart enough not to.  I wondered about Nick's crime.  Assault?  Drugs?  A bank job?  I felt guilty about wondering about Nick's crime.  I really wanted to ask the woman about it.  I didn't.  I got out the crossword, but was too distracted by the woman with her head in her hands & kept looking at her surreptitiously. 
When my stop came around, I had to shove my way through the crowd to get out.  Everyone looked annoyed.  As I walked along the platform, I passed the conductor's car & there he was, a balding, tubby guy, grinning and waving floppily at the exiting passengers like a baby who's just learned an exciting new skill.  He was the happiest conductor I'd ever seen.   He might have been the happiest man I'd ever seen. I waved back, & he looked as pleased as punch.


Marty Wombacher said...

That was a great story! I love your slice of life New York stories that you write. They're good enough for the New Yorker, you should submit them! The description of the conductor was especially well-written and descriptive.

Peggy said...

This would be perfect for that Metropolitan Diary (is that what it is called?) thing in the NY Times. Does that still run?