The other day, at the height of rush hour, I got onto the last train on the subway, cramming myself between men with briefcases and college students with Trader Joe’s shopping bags, women pushing babies or holding purses. Like a remorseful frequenter of an all-you-can-eat buffet, moaning with a grossly uncomfortable fullness, there was simply no more room — at least to people with depth perception and general respect for personal space. Not, unfortunately, to the shoeless crazy person with the bicycle who, at the very last minute, tried to insert himself and his bike in the cubic foot of free space between myself and the door.
“Uh, that’s not going to work,” I said, the rubber of his front tire pressing into my calf while the back of his bike was still halfway onto the subway platform. The uninvited interaction with strangers on the subway is a dangerous gray area. In New York, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. The bike man did not respond, but kept trying to charge his way forward into what had become a rather dense mass, an impenetrable wall of commuters.
The doors closed in on the man and his bike, infuriating him greatly. He slammed his hands on the doors and muttered a few unmentionable expletives, as though he could never have fathomed this scenario playing out in such a way. Meanwhile, on the other side of the subway doors, his female friend waited on the platform with her bike, having had the good sense and spatial reasoning to understand they’d have to wait for the next train.
When the doors failed to open per the mandate of his fists, he roared. Literally. Roared. It was at this moment I realized he was not wearing shoes and, by deductive reasoning, suspected that drugs or mental illness were at play – though this did not explain his seemingly reasonable friend, who was perhaps less crazy or simply on fewer drugs.
Having been gamely defeated, the shoeless man peeled himself from the train, where he stood in defeat, shaking his head at this afternoon’s great injustice. Stupidly, I gave his friend one of those sarcastic thumbs ups, which she found quite entertaining. She pointed out my theatrics to her friend and I prayed that the doors remained closed and that the train would pull away as quickly as possible.
With the irritant removed and the train headed swiftly towards 6th Avenue, the remaining passengers bonded in that specifically New York type of way. We proceeded to have a collective chuckle, sharing headshakes and eye rolls and the requisite “I mean…seriously?” types of comments that make sure to separate us, the people crazy enough to live in a city like this, from, you know, the actual crazy people.