July 26, 2002

The Worst Subway Ride

by Tenzin McGrupp © 2002

2 July 2002. Hot, hazy, humid, hellish. 4H's of the subway today, as temperatures hit the mid 90s and with that heat index it feels like 100, but they never tell you how hot it will be in the subways and on the subway if your train has NO AIR CONDITIONING. I have already sent a suggestion to the DoD and the Pentagon, concerning the overcrowding of captured terrorists in prison camps in CUBA. Why do they, “the evil doers of violence and terror,” have it so posh? I told Rumsfeld to get a Metrocard and get his ass on a broken down A Train, stuck with NO A/C in the between of Harlem and Spanish Harlem. Three minutes of that agony and then he'll make the quick decision to imprison newly captured Al-Qaeda operatives, on NYC subways. Force them to sit blindfolded, in winter clothing, handcuffed to one of the filthy subway poles, and endure a morning rush hour (more like two hours) of the worst case scenarios: a breakdown with the worst possible group of people imaginable, the subway car from Hades.

It's any New Yorker's worst nightmare: the morning breakdown with no A/C and a full load of angry commuters, pissed off that they are gonna be late for their shitty jobs. Of course, I always get surrounded by the worst of the worst, subway riders of the lowest sort, people who you wish you could evoke the rule: LET ME HIT YOU JUST ONCE, REALLY GOOD. You know the types, the NBA jersey wearin' kid with the jacked-up-super-mega-bass headphones blasting the flavorful sample and breaks of the week, loud enough for the people in the car next door to hear. There's a time and a place for P-Diddy's Hip Hop Hour, but it's not in front of me at 6:18 AM, while I'm trying to write the great American novel. Then there's the smelly guy. I won't launch into a hygienic rant here; I'll let you fill in the blanks. Today there was a few people who could have won international medals for their foul, nipple-squeezing odor emissions. And I forgot to tell you about the guy with the fast food breakfast, eating it while reading EL DIARIO, and trying to feel up the young girl next to him.

Oh, then there's the teenage mother with three kids. Of course, she never has one kid with her, but always all THREE. And one kid decides to chase the other through the crowded, not moving, non-A/C'd car, yelling at the tops of their lungs, nearly loud enough to drown out the heavy thumping bass from the kid's earphones next to me, while the Dunkin' Donut eating, fake Tommy Hilfiger wearing teenage mother ignoes them. She focuses her scorn on the third kid who decides to squat in the middle of the coffee stained subway floor, and she's yelling and cursing at him in a mixture of Spanglish, something to the effect (loosely translated): "If you don't get the fuck up right now, I'm gonna knock your ass out and leave your sorry ass on the train and let some dirty priest pick you up and take you home."

OK the last part I made up. She said "eaten by a homeless person," but I think getting snatched up by a Catholic Priest is far more terrifying. Anyway, she threatens her third kid just before smacking him in his head. I can't sit through this without wanting to say something, but then she gets a complaint from another annoyed passenger and the teenage mom snaps back, "Don't tell me how to raise my kids!"

The scene is already bad. And to make things worse, I have two people sitting next to me who are making me regret I caught this train. To my right a middle-aged black woman, who also happens to be the most agitated person on the subway, twisting and turning and sighing and pouting and looking at her watch every thirty seconds and methodically curses in order:

1. God
2. the NYC MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority)
3. her ex-husband
4. the mom with the three kids.

I can handle these situations, but having to sit next to her made me tense and I lost my concentration and couldn't write, so I turned to my left to see who was sitting there, and this guy looked he walked right out of one of those Al-Qaeda training camps that you see video footage of on CNN --- you know, the guys in blackhoods running through an obstacle course in the middle of the desert with a Chinese made AK-47 and DEATH TO AMERICA written in Arabic on his white headband. Yeah, this guy is a dead ringer for my NUMBER 1 possible terror suspect on the train (In post 9.11 NYC, you can be neither too paranoid, nor too prepared) and I’m stuck between the two worst possible people to be sitting with. I can’t take this any longer and I’ll completely snap if I don’t talk to someone and I need to just start yapping with anyone. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and make a decision. I turn to my left and say, "How's it going, man? Pretty hot, huh? Like Ramallah hot, right?"

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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