Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Karma Train

I have this friend who absolutely loves spaghetti—all kinds of spaghetti, he says. The way I see it, though, spaghetti all by its lonesome is pretty much tasteless. It’s the tomato sauce and other toppings that matter, so I could never quite understand how anyone could claim to like all kinds of spaghetti dinners in all kinds of venues.

The Spaghetti Man also has a knack for finding fault with restaurant food and service. Several years ago, he recounted the story of finding a piece of glass in his spaghetti bowl at some over-priced Manhattan eatery, I cut him a little slack and conceded he had ample reason to be upset this time. Even lodging a complaint was in order. Still, I couldn’t help but see karma at work. You know, the guy who always finds something wrong—even when there isn't anything wrong—finds a small but sharp piece of glass in his spaghetti bowl. And then—some years later—it happens again at another dining establishment. Just what are the odds of that? I don't think my friend is running scams to get free meals like Angel,  PI Jim Rockford’s good buddy. I think bad karma is on his tail. Of course, it could be restaurant staff members wanting to get even with an overbearing and annoying patron. However, I think placing jagged glass in a pasta dish—a criminal offense—would have been carrying things a bit too far when saliva, a sneeze, or earwax would have sufficed.

Today, I rode the karma train from the Bronx into Manhattan and then back again. I usually ride in the first or last subway car because they are generally the least crowded from beginning to end. I rode downtown in the second car this morning only because an oblivious young woman on the platform was talking on her cell phone and ran interference, blocking me from getting to the first car. As it turned out, the second car’s air conditioning was out of order. I could have moved to another one, but the day was pleasant enough to make it quasi-tolerable for me, but apparently not for many others. Hence, the car remained less populated than it would have otherwise been. Since I didn’t pass out on the journey, I suppose it was worth remaining in warm, stale air for the forty-five minute or so ride.

On my return trip, all was going well for a while. I was in an uncrowded, air-conditioned subway car—the last one as a matter of fact. But then a mother, grandfather, and young boy got on the train at Lincoln Center. The kid was unleashed, unruly, and running about like a pinball, but worse than all of that he was constantly shrieking at the top of his lungs—and I mean shrieking! He was mimicking a Ninja Turtle or something at some point. Negative karma was once again rearing its ugly head.

I noticed several people changing cars just as soon as they got the chance, but I remained stationary, pretending to fall asleep or some such thing because it was at once embarrassing and surreal. On more than one occasion, the mother told her son to keep his voice down, but to no avail. Really, she didn’t seem overly concerned about it. Like me, most people in the subway car were pretending not to notice this excessively hyper child, who most definitely wasn’t on any kinds of calming meds.

I was actually preparing to at long last to leave the subway car at the City College station at 137th Street and ride in another one, or even wait for another train if necessary. But, lo and behold, the unholy threesome—that bad karma brought to me—got off there. The entire subway car heaved a collective sigh of relief when they did—I felt it—although outwardly, like good New Yorkers, we remain poker-faced. Just another day on the Karma Train.

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