A guest post from noisiestpassenger.com.
The post-work subway ride uptown on Friday is my favorite of the week. I can always get a seat from the Wall Street stop, as people tend to leave their offices earlier. Because we get to sleep late the next day or have fun weekend plans too large for a cubicle, everyone tends to actually look at each other and even smile.
I don’t consider my workweek over until I’ve tutored my last student, Jing, on Friday night. But I do feel lighter. There’s a zip of camaraderie among passengers, like we’re all in on the same joke or headed to some surprise party someone very high-strung doesn’t know about.
A few Fridays ago, I was sitting on the train, listening to music and feeling good. A couple boarded with their toddler, the human equivalent of a sticker burr, a few stops after mine. He clung to his exhausted mom and howled when put down in his own seat.
I locked eyes with the woman sitting across from me. She was coming from a workplace somewhere near mine and had an easy smile barely hidden by Stranger Face, the public “Just get me where I need to be” face. Neither of us needed to say anything to verify a wavelength. If that kid didn’t shut up, our Friday evening buzz would be seriously harshed, man.
The mom and dad bent over the toddler to shush him. Strangers shot knowing glances as the boy kept screaming. “Just hold him already!” every passenger silently chided. A 2 train hath more judgment than the pearly gates.
Once on his dad’s lap, the squirming child vine fell into a short-lived hush, the calm before the snotty, whining storm. Then he started to scream and thrash like the lead singer of a death metal band.
The woman across from me sent a blinking grimace my way, which I recognized from my days of teaching. In English, it translates to something like, “Do we really need to keep this one alive?”
Does it also take a village to properly beat a child’s ass?
The mom looked ready to throw herself from the train. Meanwhile, the dad whipped out a book and started reading aloud.
Saved! The boy stopped crying, I turned down the music pumping from my headphones, and the woman across from me breathed a sigh of relief. Our subway car was collectively proud of this glorious moment in family literacy.
I was just considering letting myself doze a few stops, when the book’s plot dissolved or the animal characters became unsympathetic or maybe, maybe the boy was just the spawn of Satan.
Face-clawing, opera-singer-birthing-a-large-breech-pony cries.
Now good friends, give or take never formally meeting, I rolled my eyes at the woman across from me. She rolled hers back. The dad acted quickly and gave the toddler an apple, which he promptly bit into.
“Awww… He was hungry,” the fickle audience of passengers realized.
The train surged on in peace. When the boy dropped the apple, everyone braced for the din, but nothing happened. He was curious to see where it rolled and giggled in delight when a girl stopped the fruit’s flight with her foot.
The dad took it from her and here’s where it became really hard not to talk to strangers. The mom retrieved a tissue and some Purell, gave the apple a cursory wipe, and returned it to the boy. He started eating it. Greedily.
Everyone in the car turned against the parents then. Many people avoid touching the subway pole, which is about 3,000 times cleaner than the floor. Ewww! I’ve seen vomit, urine, tracked-in animal waste, and garbage on subway floors. I’d never seen anyone eat off of them.
The woman across from me agreed. She wrinkled her nose. When I mirrored the expression, she had to bite the insides of her cheeks to keep from laughing.
Where better to be disgusting than NYC public transportation? For this family, it was no big deal – just another big, dirty apple.
I shook with laughter until I transferred to the local 1 train at 96th Street, where the woman and I sat across from each other again.
In addition to looks, I almost wish we’d exchanged names.