Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Most Awkward Subway Ride Ever

In this case, "awkward" may be read as "awful and stunningly obscene." Out of consideration to readers with delicate sensibilities or snoopy employers, I have omitted most of the lewdish details, leaving them to the reader's imagination to fill in as they see fit. However, if you have a particular distaste for the sordid and cruel underbelly of human nature, you might want to skip it altogether.

We had been living in New York City for just a few weeks. I was temping at a currency trading floor in Midtown. The day was over and I was standing on the subway platform at Lexington and 59th. Nearby I saw a couple, clearly not from New York, clearly not from anywhere near New York, staring at a subway map with furrowed brows, whispering back and forth, looking completely lost. I'm a like-to-know-what's-what kind of guy and had done my best to bone up the city's subway system. I decided to show these lost souls that "we New Yorkers" weren't as unfriendly as everyone claimed. I offered my assistance.

"We're trying to get to the Statue of Liberty."

"Oh, sure. You've got to go to Bowling Green. I'm on the same train. I'll show you."

We stood on the platform. No train came. We made chit chat. We stood longer. No train came. We stood a really long time. No train came. Finally I asked someone, "Is the 4/5 running today?"

"It doesn't stop here. You have to go downstairs and catch the 6, then transfer at 42nd Street."

Feeling foolish, I turned and relayed this information to my wards. We descended the long staircase, and just as we neared the bottom, the train pulled up. We ran on and squeezed in. It was incredibly crowded, packed with rush hour commuters. The three of us huddled in around a pole. Three teenage boys ran in and crowded around the other side of the pole, face to face with us. The doors closed, and the train started.

Immediately, one of the boys (I'll call him the Bully) turned to another (the Punk) and started trashing him. More specifically he started detailing the exact nature of his sexual preferences, exactly what he liked to put where, how he liked to put it there, how often he liked to put it there, how many places he liked to put it at once, and on, and on. It was stunning in both its creative detail and its cruelty. The Punk said nothing, giving a big, doofy smile, trying to act unphased. The Bully told him, "You should check your smile in the mirror, man, 'cause you got semen in your teeth." The third boy said nothing, watching the show, silently grinning.

I looked at the couple. The wife's face had gone bloodless white. The husband's was screwed up in silent fury, knuckles clenched around the pole. I nervously glanced from side to side, doing my best to maintain a blasé, "that's life in the big city" demeanor but feeling somehow responsible for this horrible turn of events.

I don't know if the train was moving particularly slowly or if time itself had notched down to one quarter speed, but it was the longest seventeen blocks of my life. The torrent of filth never stopped, never hesitated, never missed a beat. We reached 42nd Street and rushed across the platform to our connecting train. The boys went their separate way. For the length of Manhattan the husband sat with his arm around his wife as she hoarsely whispered "I've never heard anything so awful in my life. It was terrible." He leaned in, consoling her. I sat opposite them, staring with excessive interest at the advertisements overhead. Finally we reached Bowling Green. "Um, this is your stop. Enjoy the rest of your stay."

Ask and ye shall receive.


  1. Anonymous11:18 AM

    Oh, how terrible. Seriously, hearing stuff like that ALL the time doesn't make it too bearable, but they sound like the type of people who probably don't hear such things often. Ouch.

  2. if i read overheardinnewyork, i think, "surely those people must be on another planet" -- they are just so far from my reality.

  3. It has come to my attention that there are minor errors in the subway logistics of my story, but don't worry. I just fired my entire fact checking staff. "Get out! Get out now! The 6 is upstairs! The 4/5 is downstairs! It's all backwards! Pathetic... You're not worth the money I spend on Ho-hos to feed your lazy asses."

    That's what I said.

    It's been many years, and though some details are a bit fuzzy, that "semen in your teeth" quote is dead on. I never forget the important stuff.

  4. Hey,
    Thanks for throwing in on my linking etiquette question. I think you are correct in your assertion.

    In the meantime, I love your observationl cartoons! The Guess Pants is a great, as well as your wife's response. Have you also noticed lately that there are women wearing calf-high pants that flair out, combined with black leather boots? This look sound familiar? Yes! They are dressing like Star Trek officers (re original series)! Do you think they even know it? I doubt it. What a look. eople will buy jsut about anything off the rack. I think I will try to market clown wear soon.

    ; P

  5. But they mention in Episode 74 ("Forbidden Passions on the Forbidden Planet") that the uniforms are actually a "retro" throwback to women's fashion of the early 21st century. How the producers could have anticipated this in the Sixties, I don't know. They truly were ahead of their times.

    p.s. This joke is probably way too complicated, but it's making me laugh.