The Crappiest Criminal - Part 2


A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly frigid night in New York City, I was on my way home to Queens.

I was going to have to change trains at some point in order to get home. I could have done it at 4th, 34th, or 42nd street. However my train philosophy, and really my general travel philosophy is “get as far as you can on the vessel you are on before you change.”

And generally it works out pretty well for me. But for whatever over thought reason, I got off the train at 34th to change.

At the risk of sounding insensitive I will point out that when it gets really hot outside, or really cold for that matter, you tend to see more homeless people on the climate controlled trains.

But a subway car is a closed space and it is quite frequent that the homeless individuals who have settled in smell less than ideal. Often if I board a car that smells awful or I am aware of somebody who might smell, I’ll move to the next car.

According to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, moving between cars while the train is in motion is illegal. However it is something I have done dozens of times. Many people have. It is something that happens every day in every single car of every train I have ever been on.

Sure it’s illegal, but so is jaywalking, and who gets arrested for jaywalking?

Upon boarding my train, I noticed a pair of homeless individuals, and realizing I had about 30 minutes left before I got home I decided not to risk the smell and moved on to the next car.

As soon as I walked in the next car I saw 7 police officers. My first thought was that I had walked into a murder scene, which made me panic. Then I thought one of the officers was talking to me, which also made me panic.

But he wasn’t talking to me so I just sat down and put my headphones in. Thirty seconds later when we got to the 42nd street stop and the doors opened, one of the officers signaled to me to get off the train.

 Could you come here for a second?
Shit.

The officer was one of a group of three, all who appeared to be fresh out of the academy. He told me that walking between cars is illegal, and asked me if I knew that.

I told him I did.

He asks for my I.D., which I give to him. We are underground one of the three officers has to go upstairs to call it in to make sure the yuppie with the newsboy hat and duffle coat isn’t actually an arms dealer.

I’m standing on the platform, freezing, because I don’t have my gloves on, because they are inside my coat, which I don’t think I’m allowed to open because they don’t know I’m NOT an arms dealer yet. I go to put my hand in my pocket which the officer asks me not to.

Great, first I get pulled off my train, and now I’m going to get chapped hands.

It takes no less than 10 minutes for the officer who took my license to come back. In that time I stare at the floor. I stare off into the distance, at the other people who are now staring at me because I am standing against a wall with two police officers blocking me from moving in any direction.

Some schmuck keeps looking over and smirking. I want to kick him in the junk. I want to push him onto the track. But then I realize he doesn’t know that I got busted for walking between train cars. For all he knows I COULD be an arms dealer… A very preppy arms dealer.

Finally the third officer comes back. And that’s when the officer who asked me to step off the train, the one who looks about 23, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his pad.

I’m going to have to give you a summons.

Which is a lie. You can call it whatever you want, you can call it a Bagel Dog. It’s not a summons. It’s a ticket. A ticket for 75 dollars.

It was at this point that I wanted to yell at him.

Are you kidding me? Look at me? Do I look like a rule breaker? How about you do something about the guy I saw on the train last week who was peeing himself while he was on the train? Or the people who lay across 4 seats to sleep? Or how about the people who panhandle on the train, which is illegal by the way, and then walk between cars, which is also illegal as you know, so they can do more illegal panhandling in the next car they illegally entered. Why can’t you arrest them? Or the people who shout at me to repent for my sins while I ride to work? Or the kids who sell candy for their “basketball team?” How about you give ANY of them a summons?

And this is when I realized, I am not meant to be a risk taker. I can’t even lead an exciting enough life to possibly expose myself to the risk.

I’m the kind of guy who would go to jail for an overdue book, or for putting gum underneath a table. I constantly think about what it would be like to be one of those people who just goes where life takes them, who ignores conventions to just do whatever interests them.

But I can’t even do that because the laws of the universe refuse to even allow me to move away from odiferous transients. How can I break the rules if I can’t even break the smell barrier?

It takes the officer forever to write the ticket because he’s obviously never done it before. So it takes the three of them 15 minutes to read their rulebook, consult each other’s intelligence, and fill out a half a sheet of paper.

I want to argue but everything sounds cliché`. And as a writer, I hate cliché`s.

Give me a break, come on, seriously, and all the rest of that sounds so already used up that I can’t bring myself to say any of it. So I just stand there in silence as he writes my ticket, my ticket for what is officially denoted as “unsafe riding.”

Which if you look at my history of police infractions, pretty much every single one can be classified as “unsafe riding.” Which in and of itself is pretty pathetic sounding. Not even “dangerous riding.” Nope, unsafe. And I guess that’s me.

Rich Boehmcke: Not dangerous just... Unsafe.

Train Science

I am on my way to my birthday dinner in Manhattan. I enter the subway and get down to the platform just as an F train is pulling into the station. I hop on the train and grab a seat between a couple of white college looking kids and a middle aged black man.

The train has barely left the station when a homeless man enters the car and starts singing a song about chicken.

Kind of.

He is “playing” the harmonica and I can’t really tell what he is saying but it sounds like he is singing the song “Feelings” except every time the word ‘feelings’ should appear, he is using the word ‘chicken.’ It is apparently an appeal for somebody to give him some food.

Typically in this situation I don’t make eye contact, I just look down, which is what I am doing now.

I have my legs crossed and am staring at my knee as the homeless man works his way through the train asking people for money. Of course I was the only one he touched on the knee. I can’t stop staring at my knee praying for something else to happen.

So he passes through our car and moves on to the next. The black man to my right takes this as his cue to rant about how dumb it is to sing about chicken.

I have no iPod with me, no reading materials. I can’t even pretend to be immersed in anything. I had planned to lose myself in self-reflective birthday thoughts, but instead I am suddenly part of a conversation I am not participating in.

The black guy next to me is cracking jokes and being extremely loud about the homeless man who just left the train. He is hitting me on the arm like we are old buddies. It is when I turn to acknowledge him that I smell the hot wind of brandy.

And sure enough he pulls out a fifth of V.S.O.P. wrapped in a black plastic bag and takes a big sip.

I don’t say anything, I just smile politely and nod.

The two white kids to my left however, see this as an opportunity to make a new friend. So now drunk guy on my right, and white kids on my right are talking. The white kids start using slang they hadn’t been using before, saying things like “you gotta do what you gotta do” and using words like “hustle.”

My mouth remains shut. And then the drunk guy starts talking about his career in Mortuary Science.

Yep that’s right, he’s a mortician.

And anybody can do it too. Do you know how I know? Well because my new friend tells me right off the bat that he did ten years in prison before getting his Mortuary Science degree and if he can do it, anybody can do it.

He says other things as well but all I can focus on is the fact that I have never sat this close to anybody who has been to prison.

But he goes on. Being a mortician is quite easy. He shares that all you need to do is take the glue and plug the holes.

It’s just all holes. Nose holes, ear holes, pee holes.

At this point the white kids are just eating this stuff up. I have yet to speak but they are asking all kinds of questions. Where he went to school, when he went to school, etc.

And he's not quiet. He is talking loudly, not yelling exactly, but the train is quiet and his voice carries. And I imagine the rest of the train is just as eager to hear his story as we are.

He then tells us a story about how when you die it is possible to die with an erection. How does our friend know this? Well apparently a girl in his Mortuary Science class got kicked out of school for having sex with a cadaver.

And then he makes gigantic masturbatory gesticulations while laughing wildly.

At this point my insides are folding themselves into origamied discomfort.

I also learn that he loves being a mortician it because the gas that preserves dead bodies gets you high:

Ya know because it’s basically just Angel dust. That’s true!

He says that aside from the fact that he gets high, a dead body is

The worst smelling shit of your life. And women stink more than men because…

I’ll spare you the details on that one.

I still have not spoken but the white kids keep egging him on and making puns, acting like this was the first black person they have ever spoken to in their life.

You know what they say about Mortuary Science, people are dying to get into it.

I am so uncomfortable yet I am about as still as a cadaver, somehow thinking that will make this stop. But it doesn’t.

He’s doing quite well for himself. Apparently he is making $120,000 a year but he really wants to go back to school for autopsies.

Because you know, basically I’m a doctor then.

I nod. Because that is the only thing my body will let me do. But now I’m straining my neck trying to see what kind of watch he has on, trying to indiscreetly check out his sneakers. I am trying to gage if this guy is making six figures why is he sitting on a train drinking a fifth of brandy.

He touches on other topics like how he has no idea how to use a computer. And then, he asks me a direct question, which means I have to actually speak. He asks me what I am in school for. I tell him I have been working for six years.

The only benefit of this is he can stop telling me to major in Mortuary Science. But he doesn’t stop leaning into me, over me, exhaling his 80 proof beliefs upon my ears.

Eventually he tells me it makes sense that he hangs out with dead bodies because:

You know, I done killed some ninjas.

Except he didn’t say ninjas. Understand?

So now my heart is in a full out rave panic mode as I try to comprehend when this train ride is going to end and how I am going to get away from the mass murdering mortician who spent a decade in prison.

The train pulls into Queensbridge and he tells us this is his stop. He then gives us all five and leaves us with this piece of advice.

Get into mortuary science.

Then he stood up and I saw he was wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt.

Musical Stinkeye

Nothing makes me more likely to give somebody the stink eye than overhearing their mp3 player blast music at ridiculous volumes while I am riding the subway.

Now it’s not because I don’t like music. In fact I love music. I loooooooove music. It helps me write, it helps me think, it is fantastic. But that is my music. Not your music.

The longer I live (and subsequently the closer I come to being a crotchety old man) the more it seems people are listening to their music at absolutely intolerable levels.

It’s usually pretty easy to tell who it is too. It’s not the person grooving around and jiving in their seat. No, that person is just crazy. I’m fine with them.

The person blasting a concert into their noggin is the person who is completely still and facing straight ahead of them barely even acknowledging that there appears to be a live performance going on in their cochlea.

Logic says that if somebody is doing something that annoys you, you should say something. But I don’t use a logic based approach, I use a fear based one. And the fear based approach says don’t say anything because this person might stab you.

Even though it’s quite possible this level of volume is affecting many people not just myself. So why should I be the only one who gets stabbed? But then, if the person did stab everyone on the train, then I would probably be held responsible, and that’s just something my conscience can’t take.

But my desire to make it stop has actually been replaced by a different desire… to ask them if it bothers them.

Listening to music at that level can’t be enjoyable can it? Unless they are dead. And judging by the lack of movement that’s entirely possible.

Because I just honestly believe there isn't a need for 285 decibels of meringue music at 7:15 in the morning. But hey maybe I'm the crazy one. I want to say:

Excuse me sir, but you are going to go very deaf very quickly! For your own sake you should turn that down.

I mean it’s not that I don't enjoy hearing a tambourine from 50 feet away (honestly it’s great, thank you for that) its just, well, is it really necessary?

I can understand how people may not always want to listen to other people’s conversations or hear the sound of the train on the tracks. But its 2011, and while the train can be noisy, and at times, very screechy, there has got to be a better answer than hearing somebody rap so loud it makes my clavicle shake.

Sometimes I do want to hear music that loud. Maybe say, when I am dancing out the weeks frustrations at 2 am. But there is a huge difference between 2 am, and 7:15 am.

How come the person blasting their music is never listening to like... Beethoven or... a really hilarious comedian, or.... sounds of the enchanted rainforest.

No its always like, 'guy screams curse words outside an exploding car horn factory.' Just once, ONCE, I would like to hear a waterfall, ocean waves, hell I would settle for 'sounds from a leaky pipe' if just to get a bit of variety.

But knowing my luck I would probably get the guy who bought ‘dogs barking at nothing' because he misses his time growing up next to the pound.

Isn't music supposed to relax us? Frankly it seems like the people on the train who are listening to music are trying to get amped up for something.

But what? We are all trapped on this same tramped train for the next 45 minutes. We are not going to start moshing. There will be no tickle fights. What are you getting so excited for? Relax. RELAX DAMN IT.

The sheer volume and duration of exposure has to be harmful. I mean, it has to be causing brain damage... right? I mean in 5 years you almost are going to have to be stupid. I mean, I know you are in high school but by the time you get to college I have a feeling you won't be worrying about things like passing calculus you will be worrying about things like… how to zip up your pants. I can't imagine brain damage is going to be cool. I imagine these individuals saying things like:

Look how much times I can shut the door on my hand without cryings.

I have yet to mention the people who listen to music on speakerphone. They don’t even utilize their headphones. They must think to themselves:

Hey ya know what? I like bad music. I bet everyone else on this train does too!

And perhaps the worst of all are the people who don’t have headphones or even have a song to listen to. So instead of just engaging in something productive like thinking or drooling, they take the time to cycle through and test (aloud) every single frigging ring tone on their phone.

Seriously? I mean are you completely unaware of your impact on the universe. I surprised that you are not also walking around with a bag full of live squawking parrots while blowing a whistle.

I am sure you had a rough day madam. And that sampling all of the ringtones on your pink bedazzled phone that looks like it belongs to a cacophonous 14-year-old girl relaxes you. But ironically and amazingly it does not relax me. In fact it does very much the opposite. It makes me to rip the sparkles off of your phone one by one and then check your phone into the sea.

But hey maybe I just don't understand the future. I mean it’s quite obvious I don't understand the present. I can hear it though. That is for damn sure.

Hot Town Summer in the Subway

With the temperature about to top 100 degrees in New York this week, denizens of this fine city, and those visiting are about to get a Howyadoin pimp slap in the face of what it is like to ride the subway in the summer in this town.

And it ain’t gonna be fun.

Throughout the year the train is a place of delays, reroutings, failures, breakdowns, and other such happenings. But in the summer, oh boy, the summer is when people go 7 kinds of bananas on the train. And that is when things are going RIGHT!

For the most part, people try to get out of the city in the summer. People with houses in the Hamptons, or a yacht, or a yacht named “The Hamptons” go do fancy shmancy things.

I do not have such luxuries. So I am subjected to the wall-sized-map-wielding tourists, and sweaty New Yorkers that cram the train for a ride to anywhere but here.

I would say for the most part, the subway in New York is well air-conditioned. It is often way colder than it needs to be. I’m fine with that. I have no complaints. It feels great when you’ve been outside in the ridiculous heat to step into a Dentyne Ice commercial.

Another fantastic thing about the New York subway system is the trains are equipped with windows. It is because of this tremendous value-add that all people on the subway platform can tell whether the train pulling up to the station is a half empty one you want to get on, or one so crammed with people you want to place a hex on it, hoping you never have to ride such a cattle car.

And you would think since its cramped full of squishy, hot, sweaty, smelly humans that people would not want to be a part of that. You would think that people would be so turned off that they would wait until an empty train came along.

You would think that and you would be wrong.

No matter how packed you may think the train is, there is always one person at the next stop who really wants to be a part of your sardine convention.

It never fails, that any time I am the last person to board a packed train I have no choice but to get on, and the doors close behind me nearly amputating my ass… some lunatic with 11 shopping bags, a stroller, and a backpack full of monkeys comes running for the doors as though someone announced that THIS was the train taking everyone to Tahiti for a month of massages and fruity drinks.

I understand that New York City is a place of very busy people on very tight schedules; I even like to pretend I’m one of them, but the trains come every 4 minutes during rush hour. How can every single person in the entire city be late every single morning? Are any of you reading this that excited to get to work that waiting another 4 minutes would absolutely kill you?

Here’s a hot tip for you: Instead of thrusting your now glistening corpus onto the train like its an Olympic event, why don’t you take the next 4 minutes to A. Catch your breath on the train platform, and B. Stop. Dripping. Sweat.

I understand people sweat. I admit it all the time. I am a sweaty human. It happens. I am not cool. I do not have dry armpits in times of great duress. But for the love of Snuggles, can you please turn the faucet off on your leaky face? I know to allow myself some extra time to cool off before I start sharing my salty epidermal rejection with 250 strangers on a shaky cart that makes Disney’s Runaway Train, look like a Radio flyer pulled by a mere cat.

Nobody is happy on the train. And the closer you get to your stop, the crazier you get. Everyone is breathing way too loud for everybody else’s comfort, people continuously touch your butt accidentally, and even though you know it was probably an accident, it still freaks you out and makes you want to scream like you were stabbed with a katana.

Even if you don’t get bumped into or touched, you are still pressed up against other people so you just start hating them. If there is a girl with a ponytail in your face, you start thinking every horrible name to call that ponytail. If she has a purple clip in her hair you start imagining 2012 like scenarios where that purple clip will cause cataclysmic events.

The other reason I have deduced that people love crowded NY subways in the summer, is the fact that even when a train has no air conditioning, that train will be completely packed.

Sure there might be one or two people who step on and then step off, but the rest of the people continue to stand on the train while fanning their faces so intensely you believe it is only a matter of time before there hand snaps off and smacks you in the face.

Nobody would stay in a hot sweaty room with no air conditioning, so why do people stay in a hot sweaty room on wheels with no air conditioning?

But for as bad as standing on that train is, it is far more dangerous actually trying to get off that train. People panic so instead of just an “excuse me kind sir, would you mind relocating your body so I might gingerly slide past you?” I get shoved so hard I am surprised the person behind me doesn’t get a penalty for an illegal block in the back.

It just becomes a big shove fest, and nobody can move fast enough. It makes me crazy I just want to leap off the train and scream at them that I am sorry I did not launch myself off the train like I was shot out of a potato cannon. I am man, not potato.

All insanity considered it is amazing people don’t walk more. But the possibility of a seat and some air conditioning is enough to make people forget rationality.

You would save more energy and stress by walking calmly in a straight line than running up and down stairs to spend time on a fully clothed Turkish bath wagon that will only make you more stressed out. So the next time you find yourself in such a situation, please, I beg of you, just wait for the next train.


Cold Hard Facts

I don’t want you to think that I hate winter. I really don’t. But February is about the point in the year in New York when dramatic frustration starts to set in. Here is why.

The cold is getting annoying.

I know I don’t live in some frigid place like Chicago, or Canada. You guys have it way worse. I get that. But it’s all relative, and as far as New York goes, the last 2 weeks in this city have been frigging freezing.

All this super bowl coverage of Miami isn’t helping either. I wake up and watch a special report from the pretty people pool at the Fufu Shishi hotel with all these tanned and glistening bodies in the sun.


 And then I go outside and the cold hits me in the face like a frozen punch of awful.

It’s been so cold in New York lately people won’t even walk down the streets. They are outside mind you, but they aren’t walking. They are running. But not just running, they are running down the streets screaming curse words at the top of their lungs.

Specifically the F word. That one is extremely popular.

So I’ve started doing it too. I first tested it out in Chicago over New Year’s. And let me tell you, it really does help. In fact while you are doing it, it feels kind of cathartic. It is the only thing that makes sense when it gets this cold outside.

Before I go any further I would like to tell you about a scale I have invented to determine how cold it is outside. The next time you go outside start counting. The amount of seconds it takes you to curse is equal to how awful it is outside.

If it takes 10 seconds it is pretty bad outside. If it only takes 4 seconds, it is really bad.

I went to a play last week with some friends and we had a dinner reservation at a restaurant about 5 blocks away.

Well I couldn’t even count how cold it was outside because before I even left the theater I was swearing up a storm. It was so $#&@%’n cold I thought about just lying down in the street and calling it quits because I didn’t think I could make it.

But I didn’t call it quits. I started sprinting and shouting. And in my sprint I passed other people doing the same. We were like a bunch of screaming fireworks passing each other the middle of the street.

But it’s not just the weather itself. Cold all the time always, ok, it’s awful. But it is the putting on of hats, gloves, dickeys, etc. that I find so exhausting.

Here is what you need before you leave the house in the summer.


Step 1. Get dressed.
Step 2. Leave the house.

I remember finding out that I had gotten a scholarship to Arizona State University. Tempe is known as the Valley of the Sun and temperatures regularly reach 115 in the summer and winters are extremely pleasant. I remember telling all of my friends that I was getting rid of all my pants. Arizona State University was going to pay me to not wear pants.

NO PANTS!

A couple winter weeks at home during break was easy. Plus it was Christmas, it was New Years, there were friends to catch up with. And just when the cold started to get annoying you were headed back to school for one of the 330 days of sunshine that Arizona provided every year.

But I am going on my 5th winter living in New York and it sucks. I mean waiting outside on the train platform is enough to make you go crazy. Now I understand why people carry flasks.

Here is what you need before you leave the house in the winter.


Step 1. Get dressed
Step 2. Select coat from your winter assortment.
Step 3. Put on scarf. Tie yourself some sort of Boy scout/sailor knot hybrid
Step 4. Button, zip, and cinch your coat
Step 5. Put on gloves
Step 6. Put on hat

Then you hustle outside, and get in a car or a train where you stay bundled until you get too warm so you take some of your accoutrements off. But then you arrive at your destination so you have to put them on again. So you rebundle and make your way to work where once inside, you unbundle.

I am not even including all the other ridiculous things you need to do like put on skin moisturizer, and lip balm, and special hand crème that smells like something used to lubricate jet engines because your cuticles are shot and its so frigging dry out you’ve got dandruff and your back hurts because you’re a decrepit 26 year old who tried to squat press his friends when he was 15…

Ahem. I digress.

So by 9 am you’ve gotten dressed and undressed like 4 times already.

God forbid you have to go out for lunch, or you need to run an errand. Any trip outside means bundling and unbundling again. And unless you plan on spending the night at work you have at least 1, possibly 2 bundle/unbundlings ahead of you.

By the time you get to the end of your day you’ve bundled and unbundled 12 times. And for what? Just so you don’t die? I’m honestly not sure it’s worth it. I mean that’s like 60 times a week for at least 3 months. That’s over 700 times a season. No wonder everyone is so frigging tired in the winter. I’m surprised more people don’t end up in the doctor’s office because they pulled their “coat muscle.”

And god forbid you have to wear those modern earn muffs they call 180s that wrap around the back of your head. Now admittedly they work, so I own a pair. But so do half the people on the street. They are an awesome invention. But something must be wrong when half the city is walking around looking like they got their head stuck in a clamp.

If I wasn’t so damn pale I would just move to one of those islands in the Caribbean where guys walk around in a bathing suit and no shirt and make a living unloading the shrimp boat.

Granted I’d probably get melanoma after about 40 minutes. So yea that’s out.

I guess I’ll just stay here. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go finish tying my scarf

Be Nice and Say Cheese

Manners: They are rare and elusive like a good doctor or a unicorn. While I would like to think I am a patient and loving person, I constantly find myself bemoaning the lack of manners and politeness in society.

For instance, I get all silently bitchy if I hold open the door for somebody and don't receive a thank you.

"You're welcome" I'll mutter extremely sarcastically to myself like a cranky old woman before storming off, all the while complaining about the deteriorating quality of the human race.

Now I know I can be a bit extreme about some things but I don't think I'm alone on this one. If you are looking for a conversation starter just mention how somebody was rude to you recently and you will light one hell of a fuse. The funny thing is those people who love to talk about their personal indignation were probably the same people who didn't say thank you when somebody else held open a door for them.

Bastards.

But I digress.

Now I think big cities get an unnecessarily bad rap, especially New York. Something about the hustle and bustle and the constant motion can be a little off-putting to people who are not used to it. Eight million people in a hurry to get where they need to go can come off as rude.

And aside from the staff at Trader Joe's (the people there are so dang friendly) I rarely walk out of a clothing or grocery store and think to myself, "Wow, the friendliness and eye contact of the sales staff in there was incredible!"

And I love living in New York. The energy, the opportunities, all of it is fantastic. But as I have detailed several dozen times in this blog, sometimes even this native New Yorker can lose his cool living there.

It usually happens on the subway when I'm in a pissy mood because I burnt my Ego or something. I'll be standing on the subway and some Neanderthal is pushing thorough the train car without regard for anybody and I think "If I just leaned my knee out a little bit they would trip and it wouldn't really be my fault."

Then I catch myself and realize I am a bad person. And I realize I need to get away.

I then usually take some time off to visit my parents in South Carolina where things are quite the opposite of what they are in New York. Things move slower. People are good natured and jovial. OK maybe not jovial, but the sales staff in stores are strikingly friendly. So friendly in fact, that it confuses me sometimes.

My dad and I went into the grocery store to get some lunch meat for, well, lunch. He was already at the deli counter when I met up with him and as I walked up to the counter the meat slicing lady said, "I will be right with you sir." I paused for a moment and looked around slightly confused. Who was she talking to? Was she talking to me? I hadn't even spoken to her. Why was she acknowledging my presence if I hadn't made some sort of a complaint or yelled at her.

I smiled to myself and just enjoyed the moment. It was so polite of her to acknowledge my presence without any precursor. Just, oh there is a human, let me make him feel welcome. This is a stark contradiction to when I normally go buy lunch meat and have to throw multiple bags of pumpernickel in the air just to get someone to notice me.

After I got over my flusterment I watched as the deli lady sliced a half pound of yellow American cheese for us and do something extraordinary.

First of all she sliced one piece of cheese and then asked me if I would like a sample.

Of course I would like a sample!

In the history of my life there have almost no instances where I didn't want to taste a sample. In fact when I was a kid, my friend Mike and I would walk around the food court at the mall feeding ourselves exclusively on samples.

I did this same thing in my college years at Costco around lunch time. But there you have to battle the old fogies who line up 20 minutes early for a cocktail weenie or a crab puff.

So back to my deli lady who is offering me a sample. And not just one sample, but for every single meat and cheese we ordered (4 in total) she offered up a sample. I should have just held up a sign like Wile E. Coyote that said "Yes I would like a sample" so she didn't have to ask.

But then she did her most magnanimous act of all. She finished slicing the cheese and put it on the scale to make sure it was indeed a half pound like we had ordered. Seeing that the weight was just slightly over the correct amount she took 2 slices off the pile, weighed it again, printed out the ticket, and then added those slices back onto the pile.

In essence what she had done was not charged us for some cheese.

She had given us FREE CHEESE!

This woman was a vision. A meat slicing prodigy. I wanted to take her home with me and install her at my local grocery store where they don't even look at me unless I happen to actually be laying down on the counter.

Now I'm not saying people in New York aren't friendly. You meet plenty of sparkling personalities in my dazzling city. But sometimes you forget just how nice people can be.

And you certainly forget what it is like to get some free cheese!

I really shouldn't' have been caught off guard by such a small gesture. I shouldn't have whispered to my dad, "Hey dad did you see what she did? Did you see?!" But I did. Now I'm not suggesting that everyone give away free delectable sandwich products. But I think it does say something about a slower pace of life where people are friendly and go the extra mile with you.

So for these reasons and several more, I have decided I am ready to retire.

To be continued...

I'm F'n Sorry

Dear Riders of the New York City Subway,

I would like to apologize. I have been totally inappropriate. Or as the kids these days are saying, "totes inapropes." I really must beg your forgiveness for my behavior as of late. It has been unkind, impolite, and generally rude. There are several people in particular I would like to apologize to, certain individuals who have been on the receiving end of the gravest of my transgressions. I feel it necessary to direct my apologizes to you.

To the woman with the kids on the E train 3 weeks ago:

You probably don't remember me. I was sitting on the the other end of the train but my rudeness was affecting you even from there. I was staring. I can't really justify it. It is in fact, unjustifiable. If I remember correctly, you were yelling (justifiably) at the top of your lungs at your 3 year old child who was behaving poorly and flailing herself all over the floor of the train. I admit I didn't really stare at first. I noticed the scenario, I observed it, but I certainly didn't stare.

However eventually I did start to stare. I recall it being somewhere around the time you yelled at your 3 year old to "Get the f*ck up off the f*cking floor."

This is nothing out of the ordinary, and I know most people were told that as a child. In fact, just because I was raised by parents who didn't care enough about me to use language like that, does not mean I should have sought that kind of mentorship from you.


So again, it was completely rational after mildly scolding your child for you to look up at the populous of the train car and scream (even louder), "WHAT THE F*CK ARE Y'ALL LOOKING AT?"

I mean, if I were you I would have done the exact same thing. What the f*ck was I looking at indeed? I should not seek parenting mentors in pubic places. Damn it Rich Boehmcke you are so needy! You should just consult a manual. So, I apologize.

To the gentleman with the face full of piercings and the booming voice sitting across from me on the F train last Sunday morning at 2 am:

I want to apologize for praying to god that you would explode in a fiery inferno of flaming fire. I know that wasn't kind of me. I know we didn't speak or even interact for the 25 minutes during which you used the word hypothesize 29 times while "wooing" those 2 girls sitting next to you whom you did not know.

Excellent courage by the way. It takes a lot of chutzpah to generate the type of classy conversation you did with perfect strangers.

I know every single person in the train and I were in agreement in believing that those 2 women were not into you, and it was silly of us to think that you talking about the girth of your member would be an unsuccessful tactic. While I am sure that you regularly bed women of the highest caliber, forgive me for thinking that you could better serve our society by bursting into flames than reproducing. That was not nice of me to think. I take it back. Again, I am sorry.

And finally, to the man standing next to me on the 6 train on Tuesday morning of last week:

Do you remember me? Perhaps you remember myself and 87 other individuals getting on the already packed train at the peak of rush hour. You might recall how I barely got on the train and had to stand against the door between you and another man. I believe it was after about 4 minutes of my standing completely still with our shoulders touching while I read GQ that I really started to piss you off.

I apologize. It was at that point in time that I commanded my presence to really annoy you. So it is totally understandable that you screamed at me, "My man, can I get some space? CAN I GET SOME SPACE?!"

I apologize for looking around baffled like I didn't know what was going on. I realized that I should have instantly folded myself into a toaster like a transformer instead of looking around the completely packed train for someone to corroborate my obviously irrational existence.

I also should have looked harder to find an empty spot that was not near a rail or wall so that at the first bump, with nothing to hang onto, I would have fallen into you like I had forgotten to bring my knees with me when I left the house. Even that would have been better than standing perfectly motionless next to you.

I also apologize that I did not invent some space to exist in and instead just stood there shrugging my shoulder like I didn't have a solution. So I take full responsibility for your explosion. And frankly I completely understand why you screamed "F*CKING FAGGOTS" at me.

I mean it makes sense, I deserved it. People can't just be expected to dress in something aside from sneakers and a sweatshirt and read about colorful socks at 9 am in the morning. I was asking for that one. I apologize.

So fellow riders, please accept my apologies. I will make sure my behavior in the future is way more "appropes."

Sincerely,

Richard

Feeling Swine

I'm not sure if you watch the news but there is a small illness going around they are calling the Swine Flu. Apparently this disease is really taking off and it could possibly get serious.

Naturally, I am convinced I am going to get it.

I haven't gotten a flu shot in a very long time. But after battling a rather lengthy germ fest last year, and considering there are 2 different flus to choose from this year, I decided this year I was going to get the shot.

So I signed up for the flu shots they were giving at my job. How easy was that? They come right to the office, I go see them, I roll up my sleeve, and BOOM, inoculated!

But then this "swine flu" really started spooking people and there was a rush and our flu shots were pushed back 2 weeks. And then they were pushed back another month. And I still haven't gotten it yet. By the time I finally do get my flu shot we will probably have moved on to the next great flu like Reptile Flu or Yak Flu.

In an effort to prevent the flu, my office building has installed automatic hand sanitizer dispensers next to the elevators in our lobby. This I think is a noble gesture but one that I believe will ultimately prove useless.

You see, after I get my free sanitizer, I still have to touch an elevator button and 2 different door handles before I am safely within the confines of my completely open half-cubicle. So to avoid touching things I have started getting creative.

Really creative.

Since the flu often gets transferred from hands, I have been careful not to put my hands on my face, and instead will rub my face with the back of my hand or my knuckles. But then I started using my knuckles or my fist to push the elevator button and push down the door handles. So now I am still wiping germs on my face, I am just using a different part of my hand.

So I moved on to using my elbow to push the elevator buttons. This was a good idea considering I can't touch my elbow to my face.

I know, I tried.

It is easy to hit the up button for the elevators the way Fonzie hits a jukebox. There is only one button and it is pretty high on the wall. Hard to screw up.

But once inside the elevator, there are like 20 different buttons. And it is slightly more difficult to bend over to hit the button for my floor with my elbow without also hitting 4 other floors, the door close button, and the fire alarm.

Especially if there are other people in the elevator and I am still trying to make like Fonzie.

It seems being suave and germ free is a tough thing to do.

Then once out of the elevator, I still have to touch door handles to get to my desk. Granted these doors push in but I still have to get that handle down... and I've already disinfected my hands. And god knows what nose picking cretin touched that door handle before me.

So when nobody is looking, I get creative.

Since I am rather tall, and when I am feeling particularly swine paranoid, I have been lifting my knee to waist height to depress the door handle and then shoulder my way into the door. Sometimes my knee slips off the handle, and my face hits the door, which from behind probably looks like I am trying to hump the door.

But even if I make it through that first door, then I have to get through the inner door. Now the inner door has a big window in it which I can see through, but the door is in a tight corner so I can't see people coming, they are just all off a sudden there on the other side.

So if they time it just right, they will probably see eye to eye with me as I thrust my crotch at the window, while trying to get my knee to a height appropriate for pushing down a door handle.

One day someone is going to catch me at just the right time and I am going to end up in a sexual harassment seminar.

But if I do get the swine flu, the train is where it will probably happen. The train is the perfect flu incubator. Plus there are so many cooties to be had.

The other day I saw a baby who was sitting on her mother's lap, put her ENTIRE MOUTH, not just her face mind you, but her whole toothless, gummy, wide mouth around a subway pole.

I almost screamed.

I wanted to say something to the mother as she let this happen, but I'm not sure what the protocol is for recommending to someone that they bleach their baby.

Winter is coming which means that I will soon be wearing gloves. This makes me a lot more comfortable touching the subway poles seeing as I have a boundary.

When I don't have gloves I avoid touching the poles at all costs. In fact, I try to make it the whole ride without my hands touching anything.

Subway surfing is the technical term for this, but with the back and forth, jumpy motion of the subway it looks more like I'm doing the hokey pokey. The only one doing the hokey pokey.

And almost nobody does the hokey pokey on the way to work.

The paranoia for the swine flu is also unbearable. Nowhere more so than in enclosed spaces like the train.

Every time I cough or even clear my throat the other passengers swing their heads toward me and look at me as though I had a bio hazard stamp on my forehead. I kind of don't blame them because I think the same thing when someone near me has a suspicious cough;

GET OFF THE TRAIN GERM!

But even more than all of that, even with the inoculations, and the Purelifications, and the warning, I am sure someone I know is going to get swine flu. Do you know how I know?

Because people don't wash their hands in the bathroom! And they will be the ones to get it, and spread it.

Damn carrier monkeys.

To Be Continued...

The Heat!

New York City is a fiesta for your senses. Be it your nose, your ears, or your eyes, there is always something potent to be aware of. It all varies by season, but summer is by far the most intense experience. The heat multiplies everything by a factor of 100, bringing about an attack on your senses so profound it is almost unbearable.

During June, July, and August the heat in New York City starts climbing, threatening people's mental health and changing them for the worse. On some days, the temperature and the humidity rise to heights previously thought impossible. And once subtle smells become unavoidable. It is on these days that the whole island seems to reek of rotting milk and hot pee. And no matter where you are or where you go, you cannot escape that scent.

These heat waves almost always peak on garbage day, when thousands of denizens throughout the city have taken their decomposing filth and trash from inside their home and deposited on the curb for pickup. Heat, Trash, Milk, and Pee, I mean, that's like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse right there. On these most magical of days I am almost hoping for the meteor to hit earth and put us all out of our misery.

The heat is nearly inescapable. Breezes don't exist and shade is a joke. And in effort to draw people into their establishments, many stores will leave their doors wide open using thousands of dollars of electricity to blast their air conditioning onto the street as if to say, "Not only are we cold inside, but we also hate the earth!"

But it works. It doesn't matter if it is a lingerie store or a fruit market, people like myself walk in without paying attention to the sign outside just because the arctic blast is so refreshing it is damn near impossible to think of anything else.

It reminds me of the time I was walking around St. Kilda in Australia. My bag with the good sun block had been stolen, so on this particular morning I had to buy a new one. Unfortunately I couldn't find the one I liked, and the one I purchased was apparently made from corn starch and paste.

Not only did it go on thick, but it completely clogged my pores. So when I began to sweat, and sweat profusely at that, my whole body took a whitish tint. And with not even a stitch of cloth to dry myself off, I very much resembled a lanky German geisha.

I sought refuge. Coolness, where art thou? This is summer in Australia; surely they must have "Air Con" everywhere, right? But there were no such places around. After much searching, this clothing store was the best I could do.


















Under the guise of being a paying customer, I actually took a couple of shirts into the dressing room. But really, once I closed the door I just stripped, sat down, and hoped to cool off for a bit.

I probably was in there too long because after a bit I heard;

Is everything OK in there sir?

Uh... yea. Just um... checking the stitching on this shirt.

I actually did end up buying a shirt with no sleeves which I still own. Which makes sense for me and not just because I have huge biceps. I sweat a lot in all seasons. this probably isn't going to win me any female fans but it is a fact.

And even though I sweat, I still maintain a high standard of hygiene. Through the use of soap and modern deodorant, while I may sweat, I certainly don't stink.

This is not the case for some of the people in my city.

Scantily clad shower haters are all up in your business. Especially when you are on the train. I don't want to touch anybody else's skin to begin with . But your sweaty, smelly skin?

Oh my god gross.

And as a side note, I will never understand that if hot air rises, and cold air sinks, how come when I am 50+ feet underground in the subway, I feel like I am on a conveyor belt going through the oven at Quiznos?

The other day I was on a train that a couple of kids ran for. Lucky for them they made it. Unlucky for me they smelled like fart. A pair of farts. A pair of farts sitting next to me on the train.

Awesome.

Part of me thinks we, as a train car, should be allowed to vote people out of the car if we have a majority. But I think a power like that is kind of dangerous. And also, thinking back, I probably would have been kicked off that day I had to ride the train drenched and topless. (Story for another time.)

I know this is mean, but often when I am on the train and I see somebody running for it, I kind of hope they don't make it. I know it's not nice, but from experience, 9 times out of 10 the person running for the train isn't gorgeous, jolly, or smell like a peach cobbler. No, in my experience the person running for the train contributes one or all of the following.

1. Stink
2. Sweat
3. Frigging Crazy

Just please sit down, relax, cool off, have a mountain dew, and catch the next train.

When I lived in Arizona, the summer would get up to 115 degrees regularly. And I swear to god if you even say something dumb like "But it's a dry heat" I will karate your face right off of your head. Because you know what? Dry or wet, heat is heat. And when people die of exhaustion, nobody ever asks;

Well was it a wet or a dry heat exhaustion?

Dry heat. You want a dry heat? Put your head in your oven for a half hour and see how that feels.

But what made AZ tolerable was the fact that every building had air conditioning blasting at gale force levels. So on a day full of classes, I would walk outside where the temperature was 108 and then walk into a room where the temperature was like ... 8.

And despite how hot it got out there, sometimes I kind of miss Arizona. maybe it's the reliability of the AZ air conditioning. or it could be that even thought it got up to a million degrees out there... it never smelled like pee.

Yea, maybe that's it.

Banging the Drum

Several months ago I was standing on the train on my way to work. When the train pulls into my station at rush hour it is already pretty full and I rarely get a seat. On this particular morning there was a man sitting very near to me dressed all in black. His clothing was dirty and a little ragged, and he had several large bags with him. he may have been homeless or just down on his luck.

The most distinct thing about this man was the fact that he had a drum in his lap. It was kind of like a half a bongo, only the top part of it. And he was playing it, banging on it, non stop at 8:30 in the morning, on a fully packed train, on some random Tuesday, and he was showing no signs of stopping.

At first my thoughts were probably the same as everybody else on the train;

STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP OH MY GOD STOP!

It was obvious that people were frustrated. I caught more than one person giving him the evil eye and heard plenty of exaggerated sighs. Even though everybody wanted him to stop, nobody said anything. Maybe because everyone realized anybody playing the bongo on a rush hour train may be a little off and therefore, not worth antagonizing. It takes about 25 minutes to get from my stop to midtown, and this guy didn't look like he was getting off anytime soon.

Let me say that it is not unusual for Bongo playing to take place underground in new York City. In fact I would argue it is a staple of the subway experience. But it is something you usually hear on the platform. A tightly packed train car is the opposite of a good place for a one man bongo show.

I watched him pretty much the whole train ride. It was hard not to. I had a book with me but I couldn't really keep my focus on it. He would play for a bit and then stop for a minute; he would smile to himself as he tried out new beats, or replayed ones he knew well. He would laugh here and there as though a certain particular beat was particularly amusing, like the beats brought back memories.

Maybe they did.

But the longer I stared at him the more my thoughts changed. My frustration changed to curiosity, and then ever so slowly into introspection. It wasn't just the noise of the music of the bongo that got me thinking... it was the guy himself. Something about him and what he was doing spoke to me. And then I realized;

He was my metaphor.

Now I didn't realize it right away, because at first I thought he was just crazy. I kept wondering, doesn't this guy know he's not any good? Surely he must know that or he wouldn't be a homeless man playing bongo on the subway, he would be off somewhere in some famous bongo band.

But no matter how many people sighed or shot him dirty looks, he didn't seem to notice. He just kept right on drumming. It was almost beautiful.

He didn't have a hat out, or a sign asking for money. He didn't ask anyone to make a contribution to his fund. He just sat there, playing the bongo however he wanted, for as long as he wanted. For whatever reason, something compelled him to do it. Until somebody forced him to stop, or he completely lost interest, he would bang his drum. Just like I have been banging my drum for the past 12 months. Except my drum is a blog.

A little over a year ago I was looking for a reason to write more. I had pitched a couple of magazines with story ideas but never heard back. I knew I wasn't going to get better unless I started having a regular reason to write. The word "blogger" had taken on such a negative connotation that I had no desire to create an identity as one. But the more I thought about it, a blog was the best way for me to have the freedom and the ability to write as I wanted.

I thought I had some interesting things to share and some unique stories to tell. Most of all I thought I might be able to make people laugh. The only way to figure that out was to try. And so Boehmcke's Human Condition was born.

I started sending it out.

Nothing came of it right away and still at this point, nothing has come of it. Well, that is not entirely true. I have met some wonderful people through writing and blogging as it were. I have created a tremendous amount of meaning for myself through the process of writing. To say it gives me a sense of purpose sounds too severe, but in some ways it really has. It has given me a drive and a focus I didn't have before. I love to do it, and I love the reception I get, be it positive, negative, or just plain creepy.

But in terms of life changes... I haven't had any really that I can attribute to the blog. At least not yet. No movie offers or book deals. No newspaper or magazines asking me to syndicated myself nationally. No special on Comedy Central. No appearances on the Today Show. And yet, I keep writing.

I do so because I believe in it deep down in my bones. I believe that this is something that is going to change my life. And unlike the other jobs or internships or part time work I've had, this doesn't make me a dime. But I love it. Just the act of doing it makes me feel good.

So I keep banging my drum, sending out my blog week after week. To people I know well and barely at all. To other bloggers and other bloggers' friends. To anybody who friends me on Facebook and anybody who asks; "What types of things do you write?" I keep sending it out.

Like the bongo player, nobody asked me to start. And thankfully, as of yet, nobody has asked me to stop. But I will continue to do it until I have a reason not to, putting my writing out into the world for all who care to see until I have nothing left to write. Hoping that somebody likes it enough to make it worth my while one day leave the desk job behind.

And granted I don't read my blogs aloud on the train at 8:30 in the morning, many mornings I am thinking about them. The link is there. This bongo player and me, both unpaid, same train, both doing something that makes us happy, doing it until we run out of steam, until the gods of our art and our craft put a stop to our drumming. Until there is a reason not to.

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.

Hooray.

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!”

“What?”

“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.