Why I Stopped Taking the Subway


My birthday just passed. Twenty four, wow. I still feel/look like I’m eighteen sometimes. Birthdays have to stop being so shocking to me – what am I going to do when I’m turning fifty? I foresee anxiety attacks during later birthdays..

Here is the latest story I wrote about the perils of NYC public transit. It’s basically fiction, but almost all of these things have coincidentally happened to me as well. ENJOY!


“Aw, crap! I’m going to be late!” I said to my boyfriend as I kissed him on the cheek.

I grabbed my purse and yanked a sweatshirt over my head (was it cold out today?), running down the stairs. I threw the door closed behind me and bounded down the steps. I was about four houses away when I noticed that it was raining and I forgot an umbrella. And it was humid as hell out meaning that a combined effort of nature was going to give me the frizziest hair known to man. ‘And good morning to me,’ I thought as the sweat began to drip down my back.

I looked at the small silver face on my wrist telling me that I had three minutes to make it down two avenues and three blocks to the subway. I hitched my gym bag onto my shoulder and held my lunch and purse against my chest as I began to run – if that’s what it could even be called – down the street.

‘This is exactly why I stopped taking the damn subway,’ I thought. An image of myself formed in my mind from an outsider’s perspective. A 25-years-old woman doing this awkward side-stepping hobble-run down the block covered in various bags, in the rain. I must look insane. ‘Oh my god, did that mother just pull her child away from me? I’m not going to attack him, lady! Crazy bitch.’

I felt myself getting covered in more sweat and I’m pretty sure my makeup had started to run. I actually probably looked like the exact person you would pull your child away from if you saw them running down the street.

I rounded the corner and felt a wave of confidence as I descended the slick steps quickly. Too slick and too quickly, in fact, for my flats, that were already soaked all the way through, to handle. As I slid down three of the dirty, wet steps, I had a moment of epiphany. Time froze and I had a great out of body experience: here I was at 7:30 in the morning, bags surrounding me, frizzy hair, and mascara streaming down my cheeks as I slid down the dirty steps of a subway. An apple bounced out of my bag alongside me and rolled into a murky brown puddle at the bottom of the steps. A dirty hand came from around the corner and snatched it out of the puddle it was briefly dwelling in.

‘What is actually happening to me today?’

People walked around me and I heard grumbling as they had to redirect themselves around the sad mess of a human being recovering from falling down the steps. I collected my scattered bags and wiped mud off the back of my jeans. I felt the rumble and shaking of the subway station as a train pulled in. ‘Oh great. Tell me that’s my train!’

I quickly (too quickly – please swipe again) ran my Metrocard through the reader and watched the $2.50 leave my account empty. ‘I hope I remember to refill that later,’ I thought as the reminder instantly left my mind.

I bounded down the steps, more careful this time so as not to slip again, and watched a train pull away just as my train pulled in. A wave of relief washed over me as something finally went right in this mess of a morning.

A rush of people exchanged off and on the train as I was swept into the middle of a very packed car. The smell of body odor and coffee surrounded me and made me a little lightheaded. Instantly I noticed the slick sweat coating my entire body, and my wet sweatshirt stuck to my arms. Rocking and jolting, pushing and shoving. The ding of the doors opened and most of the people rushed out to take the express train across the platform.

‘Nice, a seat! More luck!’ I rushed over and cut off an old lady who I definitely saw heading for it. ‘I need this one, sorry lady,’ I thought. I think it’s karma if I think an apology at least.

She sat down on the same bench as me anyway, leaving a polite space in between us. The only thing I really missed about taking the subway since I started biking to work was all the great people watching I could do. I looked up and down at the rows of sad, tired faces ranging from young children on their ways to elementary school or daycare to the older faces heading to work or who knows where else at this painful hour.

My eyes rested on the woman across from me. She was pretty, maybe five years older than me. Her bangs were perfectly straight and right at brow level. ‘Awesome hairstyle,’ I thought as my eyes showed what I could only imagine looked like a jealous approval. She looked me in the eyes with her perfectly mascared lashes. ‘Ugh, I hate how beautiful some people can be,’ I thought imagining my own crusted and dark circled eyes looking back for some sort of approval, smeared makeup only adding an even more pathetic effect.

She coughed politely, raising a manicured hand up to her face and looked slightly away. And again. And again. I noticed with each cough that her fingers were remaining longer than necessary. That’s when understanding and disgust simultaneously washed over me as I saw her adorable little pinky sneak its way up her nostril and into her mouth. Nausea rose up my stomach and settled into my throat. ‘Oh my god I’m going to throw up!’ No matter what direction I looked in, until she got off the train three horrifically long stops later, she was still burned in my peripherals picking her nose and having her own breakfast.

As I recovered from the trauma, I decided to opt for sleep. Subway seats can be oddly comfortable when sleep hits you suddenly and if you’re tired enough, like most passengers are at this hour. I yawned and positioned my head into the crook of an advertisement behind me. The rocking of the train back and forth lulled me into a peaceful rest on my commute that felt like it was taking forever.

Suddenly I felt as if I’m being touched. ‘Is someone trying to steal my purse?!’ My eyes snap open as I watch a rather large woman backing toward me at a quickening speed. Somehow she decided that she could fit in between me and that poor old lady who I stole the seat from originally as she bravely stared certain death in the face.

‘You have GOT to be kidding,’ I think as I slip behind her before she sits on my lap. ‘I just wanted a nap!’

I cuddle into the corner of the subway doors, still drowsy from being woken up in such a scary way. ‘Well I only have two more stops left, at least.’

I close my eyes one last time and hear the slam of the doors next to me as someone from the car in front of us passed into our car. “Ladies and gentlemen good morning, I don’t mean to bother you like this today…”

One eye pops open as I look at the man whose stench began to interrupt my slumbering before his words did. I saw his lips moving but couldn’t hear the words he was saying anymore since the accordion he began to play drowned out all other sounds in the car. And since he came in right before we reached the next stop, we had the pleasure of hearing his screeching, out of tune instrument for another stop.

As he was making his final pleas for our pocket change, I rushed out the subway doors and up the stairs. ‘There is no way that this day can get any worse,’ I thought to myself.

I saw sunlight at the top of the stairs which was a relief that the rain from earlier was only a summer shower. I breathed in the fresh air; the city always smelled so clean and pure after a nice rainfall washed it clean of the grime that otherwise festered in the sun. ‘Maybe this will be a better day now after all.’ As the thought left my mind and floated into the atmosphere around me, it got soaked and disintegrated in the puddle water that was splashed all over me by the Hummer that sped through a changing light.

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