Riding with the Crazies

The concept of public transportation is pretty good in theory. Like the carpool, it operates on the premise that if everyone is going in the same direction it is more convenient if we go there together. What it doesn’t take into account is every single person’s bizarre quirks and weirdnesses that combine to make traveling by public transportation a symphony of strange.

With cuts in the transportation budget of New York City on the horizon the frequency of service is sure to decrease, making every train even more jam packed with maniacs. This will only serve to drastically increase the volume of this symphony, and create new instruments to drive everyone out of their mind.

Millions of people ride the trains, commuting from one corner of the city and back again. Sometimes they spend 10 minutes, sometimes over an hour. And it is those people with the longest commute times who feel the need to do what I call “private time activities” while on the subway. They are also the ones most likely to completely lose their shit for no reason. These are the people who sit next to me.

Case and point, not too long ago I was riding the subway into the city on a weekend, so the train was relatively empty.


I found a seat and opened my magazine for a pretty relaxing ride. That was until I heard the unmistakable “click….click…..click” of a nail clipper.

I turned to my left to see a gentleman, no that’s not right, ogre-man clipping his nails. The sound alone sends such a violent chill down my spine that I can feel my insides twitch. There are few things that skeeve me more than watching someone remove parts of their body they deem to be no longer necessary, and then spread them amongst the ground like a flower girl at the wedding of gross and disgusting.

Would you ever just take out a scissor and starting cutting your own hair on the train? No of course not.

And nails being clipped don’t just fall to the ground, they fly off the clipper like rocketships leaving planet yuck. The man clipping his nails was considerably larger than me so I didn’t say anything, and I probably wouldn’t say anything if the person was smaller than me either. If you’re crazy enough to think that clipping your nails on a subway car is ok, god knows what else you’re capable of.

Some people discreetly bring their crazy onto the train. They are just feeling it that day. Maybe they found a cucaracha in their cheerios or something but they just decided before they left the house, “I’m going to grab a little extra insanity from my stash and throw it around like it’s a ticker tape parade.” Once again, these are the people who sit next to me.

They are just waiting to be tapped or bumped into. They have their nonsense at the ready, hidden deep within their pockets. Kind of like a jack-in-the-box. They wait with coiled spring for somebody to turn their handle just far enough so they can explode.

Case and point, recently on the subway a tiny Hispanic woman was almost bumped by a larger Greek man, so she opened her bag of crazy.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”


“You almost hit me. You almost bumped into me.”

“You bumped into me!”

This went back and forth escalating more and more and culminating with the Hispanic woman saying;

“Just remember, joo have a mother and joo have a sister. God bless joo.”

I’m not really sure what having a mother and a sister has to do with anything. But ya know what crazy lady? If there are 200 people in 9 square feet of space, somebody might hit your bag. I constantly have to stand with my pelvis inches from people’s faces, they don’t enjoy it, and frankly neither do I. But I don’t go bananas.

And I’m working on a theory here, but the amount of bags you carry with you is directly proportional to how completely out of your mind you are.

1 Bag = Normal

2 Bags = Slightly off

3 Bags = Audibly and visibly crazy

People with one bag tend to blend in pretty well. People with multiple bags most likely speak in tongues and have suitcases full of dead squirrels.

There are three times as many people on the train as there are seats. Odds are you will usually be standing because 4 million people ride the subway every day and they are ALL on every train. Nobody knows who is getting off at what stop so everyone has a moment of anxiety when the train pulls up to a station and a sitting person stands up.

Then the subway becomes kind of like musical chairs. Except there are no kids, there’s no reward, and everyone hates each other.

In fact it’s more like musical chairs meets thunderdome. And I tell you, it is funny when 7 year olds lunge for a chair and miss, it is down right hilarious when a grown up does the same thing. And if you do manage to get a seat you are probably sitting between a woman who looks like she could use a shave and another who is putting on blush like she’s dusting her face for finger prints.

Now that winter is upon us, people are getting on the train fully clad in every wool item they own. So they will get hot, which will lead to cranky, which will be immediately followed by crazy.

It’s really only a matter of time. Something will happen soon, I can feel it. Until then, God Bless Joo.