Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I should have known better, but it being 7:45 in the morning, my reflexes were not in top condition to be making spur of the moment decisions, especially given the fact that I have a fairly set-in-stone morning routine: When I disembark from the R train at 36th Street, I move towards the center of the platform. The ends are skinny and you are more likely to bump into people. Added to that, the MTA always tells you (albeit the fact that it's nearly eight in the morning and quite safe) to ride towards the middle of the train. So I, as I do every morning, moved up to the pillar by the map where I know the doors open for my transfer to the D, put in my headphones, and started off the morning quietly with a little bit of Whiskeytown. Fate, chance nor the Gods could save me from the hell that I entered by following the exact same path that I follow every other morning of the week.

I should have questioned why, when the D train pulled into the station, people shuffled out of the car en masse. I also should have questioned why there were plenty of seats available on the express train in the middle of rush hour. But instead I took it as a blessing. Trying to keep myself standing upright on the notoriously jolty (but oh-so quick) D train when I've barely been awake for forty five minutes is a daunting task, and the empty seat awaiting me was a gift from the transit gods for me giving my seat to old ladies with lots of bags whenever I notice them standing precariously holding on the pole. Transit karma.

After the car emptied out I took my seat and noticed the girl in front of me making a face that I couldn't quite decipher. One of the guys to my right had his scarf on, wrapped around the lower half of his face. And I slowly noticed a smell not quite unlike canned peaches. But quite enough unlike canned peaches to wonder if someone hadn't possibly thrown up a can of canned peaches in the corner, and that the thrown-up peaches were canned circa 1952. My eyes drifted to the stream of people moving towards my half of the car and I noticed a homeless man in the corner of the car, probably asleep, and clearly oblivious to the disturbance that he was causing.

This, friends, was no ordinary homeless man. The smell of this man slowly assaulted the nostrils, starting off sickly sweet, and climaxing into an olfactory roundhouse kick that could make Jean-Claude Van Damme weep. The simple fact that one man could create such a smell to fill roughly 10,000 square feet of air was mindboggling. The realization that I chose the wrong car took approximately as long as it took me to take a seat and for the doors to close; And upon hearing the familiar double-bell, every one of us in the car knew that we had sealed our fate. On this day we were chosen to display the heroic endurance needed to survive an early morning commute into New York City from the depths of Brooklyn.

To sustain, I breathed through my mouth. I turned up the iPod. And I turned off Whiskeytown in favor of M.I.A., lest my torturous experience lead to any lingering ill will towards Ryan Adams (M.I.A. is immune to this, you see). As we moved towards Pacific, I questioned the stability of my stomach since I'd already had a Coke prior to boarding the train. As we moved towards the next station, a new, terrifying decision materialized: Which one is worse? Staying in the car of certain doom and keeping my seat (even the seat beside me was empty!) or standing all the way into Manhattan?

I'll confess that my decision was made easier when most of my fellow riders stayed steadfast as the doors opened. A bond of strength between us had been cast. We were almost soulmates on our journey. We had endured ten minutes together, and we weren't going anywhere. The smell was slightly more bearable, and I was able to begin breathing through my nose like normal. As the people on the platform began to board the train, got one foot in the car and turned around, I thought to myself, "we are stronger than you. Go back to Park Slope. Take a car service to work. Turn around, for you are too weak to ride on the subways." And they turned around. A few people joined us, but all of us except a cowardly elderly man stayed strong and true. A pair of young African American ladies sat adjacent to me and joked about the situation, with lifted my melancholia, and sprayed some sort of parfum, which lifted everyone's melancholia. And as we emerged above-ground to lumber across the Brooklyn Bridge, a sense of pride and accomplishment overtook me, and I knew that it would turn out to be a grand day.


Blogger RiSE said...

That was one of the best posts i ever read! I can picture each scene in my head, the soundtrack is already written and it would be easy to cast.... can i buy the movie rights? seriously that was a good post.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous farmfresh said...

i see denzel playing ben...

3:17 PM  

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