Monday, October 10, 2005

Commuting Hazards In the Big Apple

I arose early among the dissipating fumes of polyurethane. The landlords ripped out their carpets yesterday and sanded and treated their hardwood floors. The landlord didn't get Melanie's subtle hints of "when will we be next?" so it looks like we will continue to stare at our at-least-eight-year-old carpets that have been battered by Goblin, the Vomiting Wonder Cat, and two children raised into their mid-to-late single digits. I still remember Jolee, less than a year old, fighting some bug, sitting in our laps, exhibiting for us new parents the sheer force and volume with which an infant can regurgitate recently consumed breast-milk. How's that for an image this overcast Monday morning in Manhattan?

I digress. I took the R local all the way in. The train paused at City Hall; a uniformed officer stepped on and scanned the passengers extensively. All eight of us (it was 6:20 AM) seemed unthreatening. He stepped off and signaled the conductor that it was okay to proceed. A reminder we are under a constant orange alert.

The R proceeded, and a little bit later, as it left the 8th Street station, I saw a train running parallel on the express track. I was not reading, not crosswording, just sitting. I made the conscious decision to switch at the next stop (14th/Union Square) for that train, thus bypassing 2 stops (and saving maybe 2 minutes) before getting out at 34th Street. The express reached 14th first, by a few seconds, and when the R doors opened, I wended my way through departing Q passengers and approached the doors to the Q Express just as the doors began to close. Thankfully, I have picked up a good aggressive technique on the MTA system and employed the Breaststroke Door Interruption Maneuver, in which one places both arms perpendicular to one's body, palms facing outward, and pushes the doors back, very similar to hands pushing water away in a breaststroke.

Novices stick one hand in, or both hands in, but don't push. They just sit with their appendage stuck and wait for the door to open. It is entirely more satisfying and effective to apply force, as if you are affronted that the doors would dare close on you before allowing you proper and safe entry into the train. The momentum of the forceful entry also assists the passenger in getting in before the doors close again swiftly, like a pissed-off clam.

So, I am quite proud of myself, as I executed the BDIM flawlessly, and I plop myself down in a seat, beaming.

A moment passes. And another.

I begin to experience a strange sensation. Otherwise known as WAS, it is the Wet Ass Syndrome, and is experienced when a foolish subway-rider sits in a seat with water (or some other liquid) on it. "My butt feels wet," my brain processed. I reach back. Yup, pants are wet. I look down at the seat. There is a little bit of water in the seat. Presumably there was more, but it has transferred itself to the fabric protecting my left butt-cheek. I stare ahead in disbelief, I look to my right. A young woman sits staring ahead. It is hard to say for sure, but I thought I detected a faint smirk on her pasty lips. I decide to stand early and walk to the doors. I hope that this does not set the tone for my day.

It doesn't. Music saves me. There are some songs or genres of music that seem made to be heard in certain settings. Driving in the desert outside of Vegas is the perfect time to listen to U2's Joshua Tree. It is a religious experience. Listening to the Doors while driving in Los Angeles is also transcendent, especially "L.A. Woman" while on the freeway (traffic excluded). For New York, jazz does the trick. Today, however, my walk from the subway to work was soundtracked by 70's soul hit "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield, who died in 1999. Thanks Curtis, wherever you are, you saved my day.

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