Tag Archives: aggressive

Too many people, not enough space on the subway

I was taking the subway the other day, it was a Saturday, the trains weren’t running as frequently as they do during the week, and so even though there were less people using the system, all of the cars were just as crowded. It’s like every single time I take the subway, I always find myself standing awkwardly over someone, just way too close. Tell me whatever you want about subway etiquette, but there’s no right way to go about doing anything.


It’s like, I’m an able-bodied guy, and yes, I’d like to sit down if there are seats available. But chances are, there aren’t any seats available. And if I somehow do manage to sit down, it’ll only be like two or three stops before the whole car is full, I’ll feel guilty just sitting there while that old lady is standing not even three feet away. And what’s the cut off for old if you’re talking about an old lady? Seventy? Sixty? How old is that lady over there? I have no idea. I can’t ask.

And I feel like some people can read my guilt, they inch in a little closer, maybe make a pained expression, like if only I weren’t so old, if only I didn’t have to carry this giant cello, or maybe if I weren’t eight months pregnant, I’d be able to stand here without having this guy feel super guilty about sitting down. Eventually I’ll cave, “Here you go,” I never know quite how to say it, or how to accept the inevitable “Thank you.”

I just want to get from point A to point B without having to navigate through twenty-five random social interactions that I never really know exactly how to handle in real time. It’s not that I’m against giving up my seat for someone else, it’s just that I don’t want to have to go through the whole act of giving up my seat, and so unless the car is like totally empty, I’ll just stand, whatever.

One time I saw some guy go to give up his seat for an old lady, and right as he stood, some young punk wearing a pair of two-hundred dollar looking headphones swooped down and snatched it before the intended recipient of the seat had a chance to take the spot. The guy who gave it up made an angry face like, “Hey!” but the asshole just kind of stared off into the distance, smirking. What was the guy going to do, get physical? The old lady didn’t put up much of a fight either because, well, what are you going to do? It’s not like she lost anything. She just kind of drifted back into the anonymous background of the city, all while everyone standing around kind of wished that there was something to be done about this guy with his headphones blasting music so loud that it was impossible not to ignore the thump-thump of the bass escaping well past his own personal space.

What about the performers, the music acts and dance troupes that make you watch some three minute routine before sticking a hat in your face, looking you directly in the eye and saying, “Thank you, God bless,” when I refuse to acknowledge their existence? I feel like a huge dick, every single time. Maybe I enjoyed the song, probably not, but still, it’s not like I asked to be part of an audience. Why should I feel compelled to be a part of someone else’s theatrics?

On my train ride this weekend, I had to transfer from the N to the 7 at Queensboro Plaza. As we crept into the station, I could tell that a lot of people were going to get off, and another lot of people were right outside to take our places. The standard is that you let the people off before you get on, although it’s never that simple, because fifty percent of subway riders just don’t ascribe to this rule.

So sure enough, the doors opened, and I found myself face to face with another guy who didn’t look like he was in the mood to let anybody get off the train first. I used to get really pissed off about stuff like this, in the past I’d have shouted out something like, “Let the people off first!” or something aggressive like that. But yelling at a crowd of strangers, it’s like telling one pedestrian to get out of the bike lane on the bridge. You’re not changing anybody’s minds. Nobody’s listening to you. And so why should I get myself all bent out of shape? It’s just something totally beyond my control as a subway rider.

This guy wanted on, but I also wanted off, so I dodged a little to the right to hopefully make the simultaneous transition as smooth as possible. But it wasn’t a perfect motion, and my shoulder made contact with his for a second. Not a bid deal, right? Wrong. This guy leaned back, and then pushed me with his shoulder, hard, before disappearing inside the train that I had just left.

My rational thinking was gone, and everything inside boiled over with a primal rage. How dare that guy shove me? My jaw clenched and I fantasized about following him inside, where I’d punch him in the shoulder and start screaming in his face about letting the people off of the train before shoving your way inside. But the doors closed half a second later, and my senses slowly returned as I realized that I was just standing there, steaming at nobody, at somebody I’d in all likelihood never see again in my life.

But it’s just a shitty system, the New York subway. Everybody gets all defensive when you talk shit about the subway, they go on about how it’s the biggest transit system in the world, one of the only twenty-four hour means of mass transportation anywhere on Earth. And yeah, I guess if the city had a lot less people, maybe it could be something I’d consider using more often. But every time I need to take the train, I’m always standing, jammed inside, barely any space to breath. Every time there’s a stop, it’s the same struggle as people fight to get off and on. This system was developed like a hundred years ago, and it’s obvious that there are more people than spaces on the train. Why don’t they make it like four or five times bigger? Don’t you think the city would run a lot smoother if there were like a lot more trains? Why does it have to be such a fight just to get anywhere around here?

Don’t be a sore winner

It’s important not to be a sore winner, which I’m not always perfect about, but I try, I’m constantly trying to be a good sport, the kind of guy that comes up to you after a game and, regardless of how aggressive I was playing under the net, even though I was kind of taking advantage of the fact that the ref really wasn’t calling too much in the way of hacks, he definitely didn’t see any of those elbows, I’ll still march over to your bench immediately after the buzzer looking for a handshake. And just because we won, just because we crushed you guys, I won’t be like smiling or anything, nothing cocky, I mean, sure I might be happy, and that happiness might naturally want to express itself with a smile, but I’ll make it as subdued as possible, like if anything, I’ll just make a face, maybe a pained expression, something that, combined with my uncontrollable urge to smile, to laugh even, you’ll feel OK, you won’t feel as if I’m rubbing it in.

Even though we probably could have let up a little toward the end of the second half. I mean, it’s still a competitive league, right? Even if it’s just a men’s league, we’re still here to compete. And I guess we were being a little aggressive, but I need to get that run in. If anything, you guys should have hustled all the way to the last second. By that point, it’s not about score, it’s something personal.

Still, don’t think I was trying to rub it in. I never take threes. I was only taking them because we were up by so much. I figured, when else is a good time for me to practice my long shot? You know, in a real game setting. I was just as surprised as everybody else when they kept falling in, just sinking three after three. That’s why I was celebrating after each shot, jumping up and down, that was sick. I’ve never hit that many threes in a row, not even during practice.

And look, you’re the one acting like I was being a sore winner, but if I was playing you, and you were the one who just scored twenty-one solid points in a row, and then you came up to me looking for a double high-five, I’d give it to you, because why not? That’s some good shooting, great fucking shooting man. I’d cock back my shoulders and give you a chest bump. And yeah, I guess it was coming out as a little aggressive, but I was just excited. You could have been excited for me, with me, I would’ve let you in on that celebration.

But no, keep complaining about those elbows. You think the ref’s going to change his mind? And yeah, I agree, the ref was calling everything you dished out, to which I’d argue that you’ve got to change your game. You want to dish it out, get a little physical under the boards? It’s not my fault if you’re telegraphing everything to the ref. And of course I’m going to shout out, “Ah! Foul!” because, what the hell man? You want to play rough?

But I am sorry about ripping your shirt. You did have my arm hooked when I was going up. Right, rough, I get it, it’s just, you back me into a corner like that, I don’t know, I guess I’m just good at making it look like an accident, like when the ref blew the whistle and I was like, “Oh, I’m sorry man, I’m so sorry, that was an accident, heat of the moment,” and the ref pulls me over and whispers to me in my ear, “Hey, number twenty-five, good sportsmanship,” you can’t fault me, that’s all part of the game.

Besides did you guys pick this division? No, we got placed here also. But only like half of the guys showed up to the qualifier, and I think, well, don’t tell anybody, but in the interest of being a good sport, I guess I’ll admit, I brought in this fat guy from the office to make it look like we’d be playing at a disadvantage, they must have bumped us down a few levels.

Still, it’s all about having fun, right? Hey, come on, don’t be like that, take my hand. I used to think there was nothing worse than a sore winner, but clearly sore losers are much worse. Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to be a sore loser? My parents? My parents are dead. No, it’s OK. Seriously, it’s OK. No need to apologize. Seriously, I’m fine. Honestly, my parents aren’t dead. No, I just wanted you off my back for a second, OK? Enough, we won, no they’re not dead, yes, they told me not to be a sore winner, which is why I’m trying to apologize. And yeah, I guess I’m coming up a little short, but I tried. That’s the most important thing, to try your hardest, right? That’s what my parents always taught me.

Assert yourself. Get aggressive.

Sometimes you’ve got to really assert yourself, you’ve got to get really aggressive. Like when you’re on line at the post office, and it’s one of those lines that’s just snaking all the way around the poles, those fabric strips that come out of the poles, is there a name for those things? Line formers? Am I making myself clear here? They use them at airports. Like you’ll be waiting forever to give your passport to the ticket lady so she can take your baggage. But maneuvering around those line formers, with all of your suitcases, and your luggage. Is there a protocol? What’s the protocol? What’s the protocol for when you’re on one of those lines, it’s moving so slowly, and maybe you’re having some trouble getting your two rolling suitcases around the corner, and there’s a guy right behind you, he’s only got a carry-on, and so when you both round the corner, all of the sudden this guy’s standing not behind you, but next to you, and he’s creeping up. Now there’s another turn coming up. Does this guy think he’s going to weasel his way ahead? Just because he’s only got one small bag? And to be perfectly honest, the bag looks a little big, like he probably should be checking it in. And you know you’re going to get on the plane and of course this guy’s going to be sitting right in front of you, and his oversized carry-on, it’s going to take up way too much space in the overhead compartment.

But assert yourself. Get aggressive. At least passive aggressive. As you go to round that second corner, maybe try to block him with one of your rolling bags. Maybe knock over one of the line formers, try to make it look like he knocked it over, and when the airline representative comes over, she’s not saying anything yet, just kind of walking over as a result of the line former falling down, the fabric’s stretching, compromising the integrity of not just this pole, but potentially the entire zigzagged line. And right as she’s about to say something like, “What’s going on here?” you point to that guy, Mr. I’m-Such-A-Great-Packer-I-Don’t-Have-To-Respect-My-Fellow-Line-Waiters, and you say, “He did it.” Watch. That guy’s going to be taking a special trip to the TSA security office.

That guy’s in trouble. That guy might end up on some sort of a problem list. But what about all of these little kids? If you had little kids, you might think to yourself, this would be a lot easier. It might seem harder, having to navigate them plus your luggage plus your kids’ luggage. Think about it, kids are always knocking over those line formers. Or they’re pulling out the fabric. Or they’re jumping under the fabric, back and forth, knocking somebody else’s luggage into a line former, a TSA guy shows up, “I’m sorry sir, you’re going to have to come with us,” every mess these kids make, whoever they bump into, it’s like, “Did you just get knocked into by some kid? Yeah, you’re going to have to come with us.” And then finally after you’ve fended off the carry-on guy – you were very assertive! – you still can’t get your kids to sit still, to just stop running around and wait in line, please. So they stand quiet, for a minute, because you yelled at them, but every time they get to a new line former they silently unclip the fabric and it zips all the way back into the pole. And then you have to try to fix it. And that’s when the airline representative is going to turn on you. It’s unavoidable.

But wasn’t I talking about the post office? It’s all very similar, just no TSA. And I don’t know how your post office is laid out, but at mine there used to be this shortcut line, like if you were just picking up a package, you didn’t have to wait on the general line. But they’ve since done away with that, and now everybody waits. So you’ll be waiting for ten, fifteen, forty-five minutes when you see somebody just head right over to the last window, like pretending that they didn’t know the express line has since been eliminated, and nobody’s saying anything, not a clerk, no other line waiters.

You’ve got to get aggressive. You’ve got to assert yourself into the situation, tell that guy, “Listen buddy, back of the line, all right?” to which he might just kind of look at you, not responding but thinking to himself, “Why don’t you just mind your own business, all right?” So then you repeat yourself. And maybe there’s a postal police officer there, it doesn’t always happen, but they make rounds to the branches every now and then, and he might come over and be like, “What’s the problem?” so you can say something like, “No, I was just asking this guy where he gets his fireworks shipped in from,” and the postal police guy won’t even say anything, he’ll just look at the line cutter and point to that door in the corner, like let’s go have a little chat in that office over there, OK?