PSA: Don’t You Dare Drink Hot Coffee on the Train

The other morning on my way to work, I witnessed an interaction that forced me to have a horrifying moment of honest introspection about myself. Picture the scene: I’d managed to snag a seat tucked into the corner on a packed, local subway. As straphangers flooded the train at 96th street, a middle-aged woman staggered onto the car and rushed over to stand right in front of me. She kind of reminded me of Gilda Radner in the face, was wearing what can only be described as zany purple tights, and she had, like, 15 clips of life-sized butterflies distributed throughout her scraggly salt and pepper hair.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good butterfly myself, but butterfly clips in the hair past a certain age give off a real whacko, ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ vibe, so I was paying close attention to Madame Butterfly when a very WASPy woman in her forties got on the train with a hot cup of coffee in her hand and stood right next to her. The minute she stopped moving, M.B. immediately recoiled in disgust, threw her hands up in the air theatrically and loudly shouted, “Well, DON’T do THAT!” as she hurried to another spot near the door.

Caroline Nierman
Don’t even THINK about bringing that hot coffee on the subway.

The woman with the coffee looked mildly perplexed and a bit insulted until M.B. gestured to her from her new station across the aisle and said, “You have a hot cup of COFFEE in your hand, and I KNEW you were going to spill it all over me!” Obviously, I was loving this exchange; it was super weird for M.B. to scold a stranger for bringing coffee on the train, but it was extremely enjoyable to watch the one who was being scolded as she silently stewed about it.

Then, in a very That’s So Raven moment, I had a premonition of my future, a future in which I, too, become so neurotic that it seems reasonable to accost strangers on the train about their own life choices because I need to assuage my own irrational anxieties. I never want to be that woman, but I can imagine a Sliding Doors version of my life in which I become her. So promise me this: if I ever try to leave the house with an abundance of insect hair clips in my hair and a Metrocard in my hand, please sit me down and make me re-read this blog post.

Extreme Attachment Parenting on the 2 Train

I sat across from a woman on the 2 train the other day whose 60 pound four-year-old was buckled into a harness that was slung across her chest. She produced a small pouch of juice from her Mary Poppins bag and proceeded to hold it up for him so he could drink from the straw without exerting literally any physical effort. Listen, lady – I’m all for being an involved parent, but damn – if your kid looks old enough to register for his PSATs and is physically developed enough to have a wet dream, he’s too old for you to be schlepping him around the city in a forward-facing papoose. And if you don’t even make him hold up his own 8 oz. juice, you’re going to have one shrunken, atrophied little college freshman on your hands (or chest, as the case may be) come college move-in day (in, like, 5 years).

Annoying Straphangers: The Head-Bobber

People on the subway who furiously bob their heads in time to the music they’re listening to on their headphones annoy the shit out of me. Wow, guy – you like it when musical notes are strung together in a melodic way? That doesn’t make you ‘cool’ or ‘ hip,’ it makes you a sentient human being with ears that work and a beating heart. Stop pretending that you’re Avicii DJing MSG when we’re both just two schmucks riding the 3 train home from our grunt administrative jobs.

Daily Aggravation 53: Public Denture Removal

The other day on the 6 train downtown, I sat across from a woman whose shrunken face and whopping height of 3’2″ made it obvious that she was 180 years old. Her eyes contained centuries of wisdom, but apparently, none of that wisdom pertained to how to act on a New York City subway.

At first, all she did was eat sunflower seeds – so many sunflower seeds. I was wondering what she was doing with the shells; they seemed to disappear as soon as she spat them out, which, quite honestly, I was thankful for. Then, I turned to my right, where I spotted a gaggle of young, Italian tourists all staring in the general direction of the old woman with their mouths agape. Clearly, something of note was going on with her –  and it turned out to be the most disgusting act I’ve ever seen on the subway (and I was born and raised here).

The old woman had removed her dentures, leaving a puckered, anus-like hole in place of the normal-looking mouth she’d just had, and was proceeding to suck and lick her dentures clean. I honestly didn’t even know what to do with myself besides continue to stare at her, trying to figure out how to make sense of this horrific display.

It was then that I caught the eye of a younger gentleman, who broke into a big grin and whispered to me, “Disgusting, just disgusting,” in a thick accent, referring to our friend, the immortal pig. Turning to my left, I saw that a middle-aged man was absolutely dying with silent laughter; tears were rolling down his face as he tried to contain himself. The Italian tourists got in on the fun, too, as did a beautiful young teenager who was, unfortunately, sitting right next to the old woman as she worked her dentures like this was her last meal for the next six months. We all grinned at each other, totally horrified but bonding through mutual disgust.

At long last, we arrived at my stop, and I got off the train, both utterly scarred and glowing with the satisfaction I get from having real, human interactions with strangers on the subway. We may have the weirdest people in the world living here, but damn, do I love this city.

 

A Little Morning Menacing

There’s nothing like witnessing a menacing during your morning commute. I had this pleasure a couple of hours ago on the last car of the 6 train. When I got onto the subway, I noticed that there was a morbidly obese, crazy-eyed man sitting across from me. I didn’t think much of him until he startled me by shouting, “BLOCKA BLOCKA!”  loudly and aggressively to no one. ‘Ok,’ I thought. ‘We’ve got a nut in Aisle 2. Duly noted.’ Then, much to my chagrin, he stood up, went over to a random businessman and threateningly got in the guy’s face like he wanted to fight. The businessman promptly fled to the other end of the car like a bat out of hell; I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone scamper so fast. I thought for a moment, decided it would be a shame to get shanked a month before my 25th birthday, and ran to another car as soon as we pulled into the next stop. As a native New Yorker, it takes a lot to freak me out – so congratulations, Nutty McScary Guy, on accomplishing the nearly impossible!

Daily Aggravation 38: When you Witness a Missed Connection

It’s a bummer when you realize that the cute guy across the aisle on the subway is not, in fact, making eyes at you, but at the girl you’re sitting next to. It’s even more of a bummer when you realize that she’s making eyes back at him. WTF, guys. We’re not at speed dating. Take it somewhere else before I’m forced to unite you in your pain.