Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ringside Seat

The commuter train is the cross-section of humanity.  Rich and poor, old and young, suburban and urban, Asian, Middle Eastern, black, white - it might just be the evolution of the melting pot that is the United States.  We all sit faceless and nameless, avoiding eye contact and interaction.  Some read, some stare out the window, but rarely does anyone violate the unwritten code and speak to an unknown soul.  The only disruption in this perfect complacency is the inevitable groups of teenagers that disturb our nursing home style peace.

When something serves to disturb our forced peace, our natural inclination towards inaction as commuters, it is jarring.  We are so used to others abiding by the rules that the rebel shocks us all.

A young black man sat with his head down in his hands.  What drew my attention to him was the loud CRACK.  I looked after the first one and saw his hands fly above his head, like an excited student ready to answer a question, and then slam them into the vacant seat next to him.  CRACK.  Curse words followed and the smattering of people now stared at the disturber of our peace. 

He stood and paced the car, curse words streaming like the most prolific sailor.  In my attempt to decipher his complaints, it apparently related to his struggles with some young woman.  Don't all problems come back to a lover scorned?

He stood in the doorway, kicking the metal portion.  I finally put my book in my bag, testing my brain and adrenaline to determine whether I would act if needed.  The man was unstable, but to this point was only trying to damage property.

That was when he wound up and smashed his gloved fist into the plexiglass window, smashing it into a spiderweb pattern.  This was followed by another string of curses as he sat down and now stared out the window, picking pieces from his glove. 

I flipped my phone on, forgetting there was no service inside the earth.  In this age of technology, I had no idea how to alert the police.  Was this an emergency that warranted hitting the button to stop the train?  It hardly seemed it.  But if he got off at the next stop, he might just walk away and never be seen again. 

He didn't leave at the next stop.  He just checked over his shoulders a few times, looking for police.  Many of our car switched to a different car.  I remained, hoping he did not assault someone.  At the next stop, someone discovered a different method and got off the car and called the police from a payphone.  The conductor held the car and our suspect fled, as they say. 

People wonder why I continue to take the train.  What and miss shows like this?  Or the battle of the elderly?   

1 comment:

  1. I've always been a train guy, and I actually enjoyed taking the subway when I worked in New York. Mostly, anyway. The Lexington Avenue line was brutal, service-wise. It's interesting to watch people adhere to The Code.