Tag Archives: people

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?

Robots are better than people

Robots are much better than people. Robots don’t get mad if you take that last slice of pie, even if they were saving it, even though they put it on a plate, wrapped the whole plate in plastic wrap, put it not in the fridge, but in the microwave, because they were going to eat it soon, and they wrote out a really long note, a note that said, “Please do not eat this slice of pie. I’m saving it. Also, don’t use the microwave. I’m just putting it in here because I didn’t want to leave it out and attract bugs. Please, please do not touch this pie. My mom drove all the way out to a pie shop at the end of Long Island to get it for me, it’s my favorite, and I’m really looking forward to eating it,” because robots don’t have feelings. You program them to do or say this or that, but if you change your mind later on, you just program them to do or say something else. Plus, when have you ever seen a robot write out a stupid long note like that? If a robot tried to grab a pen and paper, one, their giant metal hands would probably crush the pen, getting ink everywhere, and two, even if they somehow successfully calibrated the necessary pressure to effectively grip the pen without all of that exploding, there’s no way they’d then be able to apply that same gentle pressure from pen to paper without some sort of a ballpoint malfunction. Also, what kind of a robot doesn’t at least have some sort of a printer attachment installed, however rudimentary, like those little receipt printers at department stores? You’re telling me whoever designed a robot sophisticated enough to craft out a whole boring message about pie wouldn’t at least have thought to include one of those little printers? Unlikely. And besides, robots don’t even eat strawberry rhubarb pie. They don’t eat pie at all. Or anything. They just eat electricity, maybe some diesel and grease.

Robots are much better than other people. They don’t constantly come out of their bedrooms at two o’clock in the morning, “Yes, I can still hear the TV. Well lower it again. Look, I don’t care if the game play isn’t as immersive with the volume down that low, I have to get up for work in four hours, so for the last time, just lower the volume, go to sleep, Jesus,” over and over again, the same speech they gave at one o’clock in the morning, the same whiney complaint they’re going to come out and do at three o’clock in the morning. No, because robots don’t sleep at all. And they clean up for you instead of asking you to “clean up after yourself for a change!” They might have little vacuuming robots attached to their feet – no, instead of feet they’ll have vacuuming robots as their feet, those are their feet, so wherever they go they leave two trails of noticeably cleaner tracks behind them.

Robots are entirely preferable to all people, to all human beings. They’re never coming out of the house next door, knocking on your door, telling you, “Listen buddy, I don’t know how you keep getting into our encrypted Wi-Fi network, but you’ve got to stop stealing our Internet. Just pay for your own Internet. It’s like thirty bucks a month. Seriously, you’re mooching our Internet, you’re pirating gigs and gigs of media. You know I get calls sometimes from the cable company? They’re like, ‘stop illegally downloading all of these movies.’ I don’t know what to do. Just … you know, you’re smart enough to hack my router, why don’t you get a job doing computers? Come on man, just get out of the house once in a while. You look like shit. Seriously, no more Internet. I’ll call the cops,” every other week, they never call the cops, finally after months of toothless threats, banging on your door at eight in the morning, showing you a warrant, confiscating your computer, your hard drives. Robots don’t care. They’ve got built in Wi-Fi. Robots are like walking Internet hotspots. And what do they care about thirty dollars a month? Robots have no sense of money, of currency, of personal wealth. Robots love to share. Robots aren’t so judgmental.

Given the choice between robots and people, I’ll always choose robots. Robots are never like, “Come on, stop using my toothbrush! That’s great that you’re not grossed out by germs, and no, I don’t want to hear another speech about personal micro-biomes, just stop using my goddamn toothbrush!” Because, one, robots don’t have to brush their teeth, and two, if they did, they wouldn’t spend a hundred and forty dollars on a super fancy toothbrush and leave it out in the bathroom, all, look, enjoy the view, but never touch, and don’t even think about using it, because of course I’m going to use it, because, what are you crazy? And they won’t laugh at the personal micro-biome thing, because they’ll know that you’re going to want as many germs in your mouth as possible. If they had mouths. If they had teeth. But robots don’t have teeth. Just gears and circuits and microprocessors and motherboards.

Lot of people in this city

The other day it was raining when I got out of work and when it’s raining in the afternoon everything’s always a lot grosser, a lot more uncomfortable, everybody’s all wet, but everybody’s doing whatever they can to stay as dry as possible, walking single file around large puddles, carrying around giant umbrellas, even bigger umbrellas, like a golf umbrella, one of those umbrellas that the fruit stand guy uses to protect all of his produce from the rain or the sun, all at the same time, a giant picnic umbrella, really, something you would bring out at the beach to guard you and your family and your ten best friends from the harmful rays of the sun. And I’m a lot taller than everybody else, and I’m never the kind of guy who brings an umbrella to work if it’s not raining in the morning because, what am I, I’m just going to have to permanently carry around this extra two pounds of dead weight every single day? It doesn’t rain that often. If it’s raining in the morning, obviously I’ll bring an umbrella. But I don’t understand where everyone gets an umbrella from when it starts raining in the middle of the day. I go to work in the morning, it’s dry, nobody has an umbrella. I step foot outside in the afternoon, it’s raining, everybody has an umbrella. What did I miss? What am I not doing that everybody else is doing? Because I know for a fact that regular normal non-crazy people don’t just always carry around umbrellas. What else do you have to always carry around? Snow shoes? Maybe an oar in case there’s a flood and you have to hitchhike home on a passing canoe, but the only way they’ll let you on is if you can help with the paddling, and how else would you paddle if you didn’t bring your spare oar? And I’m so much taller than everybody else, so come quittin’ time when everybody races out their doors, trying to beat everybody else in the city to the subway, I’m standing at direct eye level with everyone else’s giant umbrellas, and I’m just constantly avoiding getting my eyes poked out, and because I’m so nervous about those umbrella spokes which, why are they so sharp and pointy anyway, I don’t notice all of the puddles, and of course I didn’t bring my galoshes, so my feet are soaked, and on these rainy afternoons the rush hour commute just feels a lot more crowded, like when people get wet they just expand, and they get slower, and crankier, and I can’t get my metrocard out of my wallet because my fingers are wet, and the plastic that the metrocard is made out of, it completely loses its grip when wet, but it doesn’t matter because there’s a huge line at the turnstile, because it takes people forever to fold up their umbrellas, keep the line moving, put away their umbrellas, shake out the excess water right on my feet, but my feet are already wet so, whatever, keep trying with the metrocard, nobody can really get a grip, and then going underground, on this particular day, really it was very frustrating, but this guy finally just screams out something like, “Jesus fucking Christ! You fucking people need to learn how to fucking move! Fuck fuck fuck!” and I’m just looking at this dude screaming his crazy screaming in the middle of the subway platform and he looks just like me, just like some guy who doesn’t want to be where he is so badly that the stress and the pressure boils over and it just gets to him and he starts shaking his fists at the universe, and I just started getting really angry at this guy, I really considered yelling back because, what the hell? Do you think you’re the only person inconvenienced by this mob of slow moving human beings? Or the weather? Or being wet? Or feeling uncomfortable? He was mad and he got to express himself and now I was mad and I wanted to express myself, but what would I say, “Shut the fuck up asshole!” or “Why don’t you just calm down there pal?” How confrontational would I get? And nobody ever expects these things to work out. It’ll only just escalate. And we’re underground and what happens if things got heated and somebody got pushed and, you know what? Let that guy have his little temper tantrum. I bet he feels like a big man, telling everybody off, telling everybody to stop getting in his way, making his life a little bit more inconvenient than it had to be. You know what I should have said? I should have said, “Listen buddy, why don’t you move someplace far away from the city, where there are no people to get in your way, someplace real dry, where it never rains, and where nobody has to work, and nobody has to commute, and then you won’t be pissed off. That’ll solve all of your problems my friend.” Actually, no I wouldn’t have said that either. That would have been really way too long and there’s no way I would have gotten all of that out without him interrupting me, going back at me, and then I would have gotten all flustered and my blood would have started to boil and I wouldn’t have known quite what to say so I’d just start saying things like, “Oh yeah?” but really loud, because volume always trumps substance. But that would have led to a path towards escalation also and, one time I read this article about how when too many human beings are close together and they start getting pushy that actual waves of energy start running through the crowd, like currents, like people can get crushed, lifted right out of their shoes, and then who gets charged with murder, everyone? Can you try several hundred people for the murder of one person? And how many sentences are we talking about, does everybody take turns in jail for a day or are we talking about individual multi-year sentences? Yeah, I did the right thing. I kept my mouth shut. Somebody poked me in the eye getting off the train, opening up their umbrella. It hurt, but my eye didn’t fall out, I didn’t get in anybody’s face, I just kind of went, “Ow … Geez,” semi-loudly, to nobody in particular. I’m pretty sure the person who poked heard me softly cry out, but I’m pretty sure I heard that same person say something to me like, “You gotta watch out buddy. Lot a people in this city,” all passive-aggressively, everybody hurrying home, hands in their pockets, heads in their hoodies.