Jessica Gross

Posts Tagged ‘subway’

Subway Fail

In people watching on April 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

I never mastered the art of reading a newspaper on the train. I’ve mastered the fold — I can get the thing down to a sliver — but it’s the opening, the folding of the front page to access page two, that stumps me.

Today, as I tried to make that first fold, my arms got carried away, as if they were commanded by a different brain. I nearly punched the man seated next to me in the face. He flinched, withdrawing from my newsweapon.

“Sorry!” I squawked. He smiled; all was well.

But I was embarrassed. Real New Yorkers can read the newspaper on the subway. As I got off, I apologized again.

“No worries,” he said. “It was funny.”

“I have depth perception problems,” I said.

Depth perception problems?

Bottom line: I need to practice the first-page fold. Maybe even in front of a mirror. (And never say “depth perception problems” again.)

The Boogie Pole

In people watching on February 5, 2009 at 4:42 pm

You’ve touched a boogie pole.

Last night, my roommate told me a horror story. As she waited for the subway, she saw a guy pick a huge booger out of his nose and wipe it on his pants. She prayed silently that she could squeeze into a part of the car far away from the boogie monster.

Of course, she was shoved right next to him. The only pole within reach was the one he grasped. She determined she’d go hands-free.

He moved his hand and gestured to her, offering her a place on the pole.

Where there’s one metal rod covered in snot, there are thousands. Use this stuff.

Giving Up Your Seat

In musings, people watching on January 28, 2009 at 11:23 pm

On the subway, the woman sitting next to me was kinder than I. A lady with wispy, light blonde hair and a lined face came on board and stood in front of us.

“Do you want to sit down?” my seatmate asked, as I spread my newspaper over my lap.

The standing lady laughed. “That’s okay — I’m not as old as I look!”

There isn’t a better place to observe American social norms than subway-seat offerings. A girl offering a guy a seat is akin to slapping him in the face. A guy can offer a girl his age a seat, but a girl offering another girl her age a seat would get funny looks.

The real judgment call comes with the almost-elderly. Is it an insult to offer someone on the cusp a seat? — Is it like asking a round woman when the baby is due? Or should the seat-offering be a default question for anyone in the vicinity of old?

Engulfed in the Crowd

In musings on January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I met a friend for dinner in Koreatown last night. He moved from Manhattan to Texas a few months ago and, in reminiscing about his city days, said that what most drew him to New York is what pushes so many people away — in fact, the people themselves. It’s a city full of residents who pay exorbitant amounts, he pointed out, just to be around really interesting people.

I’m not sure about that last part — I think people choose to live here as much for the prestige of affording a Manhattan apartment, and for the entertainment and feeding options, as for the interesting people. But there is a thrill to being surrounded by thousands of other humans who have no idea who you are. It’s even more anonymous than being truly alone because being part of a crowd emphasizes that you’re a stranger.
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Tourist Goggles

In musings on December 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

I returned to Manhattan yesterday after a week out of town with my family. After only seven days away, the city looked different — everything that had become invisible popped out. The buildings really are tall.

I also felt oddly disoriented. Somehow, I’d forgotten where everything was and how to comport myself. My friend and I, searching for the tree at Rockefeller Center, took to pretending we were tourists to hide our embarrassment over wandering aimlessly and, finally, asking for directions. I thought I’d learned to navigate subway platforms, but the crowds made me feel woozy: were there always this many people?

Subway traumas aside, I like the tourist’s view of New York. It’s unlikely to have this many bright lights, ethnicities, apartment buildings, restaurants, jaywalkers, ornate buildings, hideous buildings, and smells smushed together on such a small land mass. And, once in a while, it’s refreshing to strip away the haze of everyday life and marvel at this city.

Subway Kids

In musings, people watching on November 20, 2008 at 11:51 am

Last night, two women boarded the uptown 1 with twin boys, aged seven. (I’m bad at guessing age, so i call any kid between five and 11 a seven-year-old.) These were raucous children. They wanted “window seats,” which apparently means the seats underneath the subway windows, which have no view 90 percent of the time. They also repeatedly threatened to bite their mother’s hands. She laughed.

The second woman, aware of other passengers’ scorn, tried to joke. “Anyone want two boys?” she asked the rest of the car. “Twins, very quiet.” No response.
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Aliens.

In people watching on November 7, 2008 at 11:41 am

Just when I thought New York could shock me no more, a man preached to my subway car about aliens. Apparently they are controlling our government.

He then picked a fight with a woman guarding her baby in its stroller.

Creepy Subway Singing

In musings, people watching on October 31, 2008 at 11:43 am

Three times this week, the person sitting next to me on the subway has started singing. I don’t mean singing along with music. I don’t mean singing for money. I mean singing a soft, creepy tune, as if to themselves, except not.

This isn’t okay. When I’m on the subway, reading my book, and a stranger launches into one of these ditties, I feel (a) distracted, (b) irritated, and then (c) afraid. I repeatedly jump to the conclusion that the person is haunted. Logical?

Medical Mishap: A Subway Story

In people watching on October 28, 2008 at 11:51 am

As told by my coworker and paraphrased by myself:

This morning, on the train, there was a commotion on my car. A woman in her 50s, well dressed, reading The Times, was falling all over herself. She was twitching; people had to stabilize her. They called doctors — apparently she was on all types of meds.

She was like, Listen — I have a friend waiting for me, just let me get off this train. The EMTs came and took her to the hospital.

Do you know where she was going on the train? To her private practice psychotherapy office.

Overheard on the Subway

In people watching on October 20, 2008 at 11:27 am

Mother: Open your mouth!

Five-year-old kid (shaking head): Mm-mm!

Mother: I said, open your mouth!

Kid: Mm-mm!

Mother: I know you swallowed that gum.

No response.

Mother: I’m not playing! I’m gonna slap you!

Kid opens his mouth. There is no gum.

Mother: You swallowed that cum! — I mean, gum!

Kid: I love you, Mommy.

Mother: I love you, too. Here — have another piece of gum. And don’t swallow it. You hear me?