A Monday Night Subway Story
By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004
6:54 pm EST – No. 1 train
I sat on the semi-crowded subway in the corner across from two people, one of them a young lady with a fake Louis Vuitton hand bag, furiously attacking a scratch-off lottery ticket with a quarter. Her boyfriend, snuggled up next to her, sipped a tall-boy can of beer wrapped up in a brown paper bag. He sighed contently after each sip and shook his head when his girlfriend nonchalantly accepted her role as another lottery loser. A relaxed man with a gray wool hat, and wire-rimmed glasses sat next to them and quietly read a copy of the NY Times, with an old copy of a Charles Dickens novel at his side, which sat on the empty seat next to him.
I glanced over at the rest of the subway car... an exhausted secretary with a large zit on her nose napped while she clutched her leftover lunch, a sandwich of some kind, neatly wrapped up in cellophane. The man across from her gleefully listened to salsa tunes on his brand new iPod. Two Catholic high school girls in front of him giggled as they flipped through a fashion magazine. A bearded graduate student wearing Salvation Army bought clothes and his all-black wearing, know-it-all, sidekick passionately debated Charlie Parker’s contributions to music and how his drug problem was subsequently fueled by the CIA’s importation of heroin from Siam prior to the Vietnam War. An average middle-aged guy, wearing an average looking blue suit thumbed through the sports pages of the NY Daily News. "MARBURY SCORES 42" the headline boldyl exclaimed, as a young Asian woman read along over his shoulder, while another young woman with very long nails, sent her two-timing lover a text message on her cellphone.
The doors abruptly opened and a group of people departed and a new wave of passengers hopped on. A weary messenger dragged his bicycle through the subway and I gazed at the numerous salt stains all over his wheels and rims. The poor fellow still had to work through the snow and bitter winter cold. An old Hispanic man struggled to make enough room for his brand new 19’ color TV while he kept a keen eye on his grandson, a chubby kid who wore a NY Yankees hat. Two yuppie women stood in front of me and discussed the best sushi in L.A. for two entire subway stops. A young Hasidic Jew with thick glasses and a black rimmed hat, sat down next to me with a yellow plastic bag. He quickly dug through his bag and pulled out a smaller paper bag, that rattled when he placed it on his lap. He sifted through and scooped up a couple of pistachio nuts and broke the shells off of each one. He popped the nuts into his mouth. Several shells fell all over his dark pants and jacket. He lazily attempted to throw all of the empty shells into the plastic bag, but a couple of them hit the floor. He did not seem to care and continued his shell cracking and pistachio consumption. I glanced at the messy floor and blurted out, "You dropped something."
He was surprised I'd said anything. He expected to get away with blatant littering. So many people in New York did that and I never had the balls to call some one out on their uncouth behavior. I proudly pointed to the ground and he looked around as though he were looking for a dropped glove or a misplaced wallet.
"Those shells. You dropped them on the floor."
He stared at me in silence. One shell that had lingered on his pant leg fell to the ground.
"Well, just don’t sit there, pick them up!"
He jumped out of his seat and collected about twelve or so shells off the floor and placed them in the yellow plastic bag. The train stopped at the station and the doors opened. It was my stop and I got up to leave. Before I reached the door, I turned around and pointed, "Don’t forget about those three over there!"
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.