My brother, Larry, and I were taking the long subway ride home to Manhattan from Queens when I realized, there should be a list of rules for novice subway riders.
Larry and I jump on the train and, after standing for a stop or two, manage to squeeze into two seats in the middle of the car. Immediately my eyes begin their midwestern trait of looking around. This is not, as my brother has told me many times, a good idea.
I look directly across from me, where I discover the most impressive Dolly Parton breasts I’ve ever seen. I stare (much longer than appropriate) at the woman’s massive cleavage and eventually raise my gaze to her, quite angry, face.
Blushing, I shift my eyes to the left, toward a young man playing an accordion. I then break the one unwritten rule I’m aware of: Do not make eye contact. Beads of sweat break out on my forehead as I realize he is headed my way, ready for a private serenade.
Whipping my head to the right, I focus in on a pile of filthy rags resting on a bench seat, entirely free of any passengers. The rags are moving back and forth, rhythmically and I realize it is a man. My eyes focus in on the Picasso-esque structure as I try to sort it out. There’s his leg, his arm, but where’s his hand? ACK! I realize the rhythm of his movements coincide with an exercise my mother said was certain to make me go blind. Involuntarily my eyes meet his and he grins.
Sweating and blushing, I scrutinize the ceiling of the train, where I read each and every advertisement, attempting to polish up my Spanish by comparing it to the English language advertisement beside it.
I breathe easier now, knowing I’ve figured out the correct subway stare. My gaze leaps from the signage on one side of the door to the other and lands on a smile so bright I have to blink to keep from being hypnotized.
The handsome young man, who obviously stepped right out of an Abercrombie and Fitch ad, expands his smile and nods his head. I feel like we’ve made a connection and we’re quietly laughing at all the kooky people on the subway.
At the next stop he lets go of the overhead bar and walks my way. Mesmerized by his teeth, I flash him a smile which quickly turns into a frown as he moves one step past me, to talk to my brother, Larry.
I spend the rest of the trip staring at my shoes wondering if I’ll need to polish them before I go home, and compiling a list of rules for a novice subway rider.
Rules for the Novice Subway Rider.
- Step onto train and grab pole in middle of car (ignoring your OCD instinct to imagine how many other sweaty palms have been there before you.)
- Do not yet sit down.
- Quickly, without letting your gaze linger, size up the members of the group you will be riding with.
- Scope out the people collecting their things, making ready to leave at the next stop, then check out the people on either side of them to look for signs of Crazie.
- Slide into empty seat and immediately (IMMEDIATELY, I SAID) stare directly at your feet. Avoid letting your gaze wander past the tips of your shoes.
- Never ride the subway sitting next to your cute brother.
And, here’s a rule that pretty much applies anywhere in life.
If you see a pile of Picasso-esque brown rags – move in the opposite direction, before you go blind.
On the right side of this page is a picture of my new book. Click on it, and then, maybe buy it? I’m trying to earn enough money to taxis the next time I’m in New York.
Here’s another rule: there aren’t any. Riding the subway in NYC is like being tossed into the wild west with no handgun. Or even a water pistol. The first rule is scan the car for crazies before you make any move to the seats or pole. The next rule is always have something to read in one hand or the other. Gives your non-scanning eyes something to fix on. And the last rule is don’t look at anyone….but your brother already said that. Stare past, not at. And practice a steel face….yeah, I know. I said no rules! Loved your last line! That’s probably a keeper out of it all…. and I’m still grinning…. The only rule I had when I lived there (especially alone and at night) was to ride in the first car where I could pound on the conductor’s door if I went blind!
The wild west – that’s exactly how it feels! And if I could ever figure out which direction the train will be coming from, I’m going to take your advice about the first car. Thanks!
How can you experience NYC with your head down?
I enjoyed plenty of New York – just never have enjoyed the subway. I’m weird, right?
Glad you are having fun in NYC! Meanwhile, where is your camper??
Camper finally arrived in my driveway – but I’m not there. 😦 Will be home soon and post lots of pics.