Saturday, June 23, 2012

Touched by a Rat

Angels touch some people, or so I hear. No such luck for me today, who was however touched by a rat at the 14th Street subway station in lower Manhattan. I’ve spotted these creatures there before, running along not only the tracks but the narrow platform as well. Suffice it to say this is not a good place to shriek “eek” and panic.

I suppose it doesn't help that I always seek out the last car of the subway train, which usually gets me a seat for the trip home, but also happens to be near a considerable garbage dumpster of some kind. While resting my weary body against this thing several hours ago, a rodent with a very long tail scurried by me and then returned for an encore over my foot simultaneous with a northbound Number 1 train pulling into the station. I genuinely feared my new friend might join me for the ride. Happily, though, it had other plans. While I’m not a superstitious sort, this kind of close encounter in an excessively humid, urine-smelling underground subway lair did not bode well for the future.

Subway rides can turn on a dime into a ride from hell. All it takes is one passenger or multiple passengers to make this nightmare a reality. Foremost, you don’t want to ride with a deranged soul who could conceivably kill you on the train. That didn’t happen today. You also don’t want a malodorous individual, who hasn’t bathed since the Clinton administration, to sit nearby. That didn’t happen, either. No, this group from hell was a couple of boorish families who never missed a beat in their ill-mannered, shrill, and stupid ways. The subway car was their playground. If I printed out a transcript of what I heard on the train from 96th Street in Manhattan until when I exited in the Bronx several miles later, there would be no periods in it. One woman even painted her nails on the journey while standing only inches away from me. I still have a headache.

I could decipher the disgust on the faces of the rest of the subway car’s passengers—a New York City melting pot if ever there was one—even though most of them were, on the surface, stone faced. Generally speaking,  people, including me, prefer not to confront boors, who live by their perverse boorish codes. In other words, they’ll scratch your eyes out for telling them to tone down their boorishness.

As the train inched closer and closer to where I called home, and this unsavory brood didn’t exit, I grew increasingly anxious. I dreaded the thought they might actually live near me and that I might actually see them again. When I heard one of them inquire as to where they were getting off, the reply sounded a little too much like my station. I was prepared to stay on the train. Turns out, I was mistaken and exited where I intended to exit. Walking ever so gingerly down this elevated subway station’s steps, I was greeted by a woman I know from my neighborhood who regularly asks passersby for quarters, even though she insists on at least a dollar’s worth of them. I said rather testily, “Can you at least wait until I get down?” She said she wanted to get something to eat from a local fast-food joint called Popeye’s. I gave her multiple quarters and she promptly hopped on a bus that pulled alongside her. She didn’t use the change to pay the fare, I detected, and the bus was poised to take her a long way from Popeye’s. Damn that rat. Evidently, angels don’t ride the subways. And I don’t blame them.

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