Tag Archives: Subway

He says he’s not narcoleptic

My friend Hayo gets so tired, he’s always falling asleep everywhere. He swears it’s not narcolepsy or anything that serious, and I’m inclined to believe him. Mostly because I’ve only ever seen narcoleptics on TV, and so I’m guessing that my entire outlook on the narcoleptic community is nothing more than a mash-up of people dozing off face-first into their bowls of soup, just over-the-top depictions of people trying to go about their normal lives, playing horseshoes, carrying a giant tray of eggplant parmesan, hang-gliding, always falling asleep at that perfect moment of comic implausibility.


But he falls asleep on the train, always on the train. I’ve never had that problem. My body has a hard enough time letting its guard down to fall asleep when I’m alone in my bed at night. But on a crowded car? Full of strangers?

“Hayo, where are you? I thought we were supposed to hang out after work?” I used to leave voicemails on his phone after waiting for a half an hour or so by myself at the bar where we were supposed to meet up. “Rob, I’m so sorry,” he’d call me later in the evening. “You’ll never believe what happened.”

Maybe the first time I didn’t believe it. And then the third or the fourth or the fifth time, I totally didn’t believe it. I’d think, really? You’re going to pull the old sorry-I-didn’t-show-I-fell-asleep-on-the-train excuse six times in a row? No, and it got to the point where I wouldn’t bother making plans with Hayo, not unless I was with him the whole time.

“You want to grab a drink?” he’d ask me, and I’d have to follow him around the whole time, making sure to wake him up three or four stops before we got to wherever it was that we were going. I found that out through a little bit of trial and error, that while he’d fall asleep almost instantly, it took quite a bit of rousing not only to wake him up, but to keep him in a sustained state of not being asleep long enough for us to get off the train when we were supposed to.

And I don’t even know why I put up with it for as long as I did, maybe there was some part of me that believed his story. Either way, after watching him nod off right in front of me, after I got off the train those first two or three times, sure that he had to be faking it, unable to believe that a sane human being would willfully miss their stop several times in a row, I came to believe that there was something going on, that maybe he really was constantly falling asleep.

Now that I’m fleshing it out like this, I guess, yeah, I guess it does sound a little like narcolepsy. Again, I hope I’m not offending any narcoleptics. It’s like, I can imagine how annoying it must be to actually have a disease or a condition, and to have it completely misrepresented in popular culture. Like schizophrenia, right, I remember when I was a kid watching TV, schizophrenia was basically multiple personality disorder. Which isn’t the case, right?

Anyway, one time I decided that I wouldn’t wake Hayo up, but I’d stay on the train with him, and just kind of watch how things would normally progress if nobody were riding along with him. And it was just totally crazy. This guy, he was sitting there, his head bobbing up and down as the train rumbled along. There’s no way that that could have been comfortable. The whole whiplash thing should have been a natural wakeup. But stop after stop, the loudspeaker would announce the destination, there’d be that really loud, “ding-dong” as the doors closed, and Hayo was just totally out.

And after a while, after like two or three hours, the train started looping back again in the other direction. I waited for my stop and looked at Hayo before I made a break for it. Should I wake him up? I couldn’t. Nothing really made sense. And when he called me the next day, it was the same, “Hey man, sorry about yesterday, I must have fallen asleep on the train.” And I was just like, “Nah, it’s cool Hayo, you were probably just tired man. Don’t worry about it, all right? Just maybe, just be careful out there, all right man? Just maybe keep your wallet and cell phone in your back pocket from now on, cool?” And I had to stop answering his calls. I just couldn’t count on him, as a friend, for anything really. Because I’m serious, this guy went out, and he was just out.

I’m doing great

My life is going great. So great, you have no idea. Seriously, however great you think your life is going right now, it’s nowhere near as great as mine is. And I’m not trying to brag. I just want to be grateful, to the universe, for how great my life is. Dear universe, thank you for making my life so awesome. For real, I look around at everyone else and I’m like, sure, I have no idea what’s going on in anyone’s life, but just from a superficial snap-judgment point of view, it looks like I’m doing exponentially much better than everyone I see.


One of my coworkers had his bike stolen last week. But not me. Nobody stole my bike. And that guy had these two really strong locks. He always used to give me lectures like, “Rob, you’ve got to get two locks.” He’d tell me stuff like, “No lock is one hundred percent effective. They’re only deterrents. You should get two.” And I would get so pissed, this guy hardly rides his bike at all, don’t tell me what to do, I hate being told what to do. I remember maybe like two or three weeks ago, he was giving me the rundown on why, “You just have to buy a Kryptonite lock. There’s really no alternative.”

And I just smiled politely, I think, I hope I wasn’t telegraphing how pissed off I was, because in my head I was screaming out loud, man, I hope this guy’s bike gets stolen. And it did. I can’t believe it happened. I said to him, “Man, I can’t believe your bike got stolen. Because don’t you always use two locks?” And he tried to play it off all cool, even attempting to own it, kind of, he was like, “You see? This just goes to show that no bike lock is effective!” But I just cut him off, I told him, “Yeah, I actually read this article on the Internet about how unreliable those Kryptonite locks are.”

I made that up, but whatever, it ended the conversation. Not that I needed to end it. My bike is fine. It’s great. I should have just basked in how awesome it was that I still had my bike while my smug know-it-all coworker, not only does he have to buy a new one, but he has to shell out money for even more locks. And they’re not cheap.

Nope, nothing going wrong over here on my end. Things couldn’t be better. I mean, maybe they could, I guess things could always be better. But I can’t imagine how they’d go about being any better than they are. I went to Subway with one of my other coworkers last week. I never get the fountain soda, but for whatever reason I did, they handed me the cup. On the side there was this peel-off promotion, something about winning a chance to star in a Subway commercial with Eli Manning.

And no, unfortunately I didn’t win the commercial. Although, that would have been really cool. I think I just figured out how I could have possibly made my life a little better. But it was OK, because the peel-off said, “Your next lunch is on us! One free foot-long combo!” And I was like, “Yes!” I brought it up to the cashier and asked him, “Hey man, can I just get my money back for this meal that already bought?” and he was like, “No, that actually wasn’t a meal, it was just a sandwich and a soda.”

“So what am I missing for a meal?” and he told me, “Either chips or cookies.” So we got into a little, in my view, I should have at least been offered the opportunity to add chips or cookies to make it a meal. And he was all like, “It’s only good for your next purchase.” But eventually the people behind me started making all of these noises, like they were audibly impatient with how slow this guy was taking to not accommodate my winning ticket. Finally he was like, “OK, sure, here’s your money back.”

And I was like, “Yes!” And I got the free cookies too. But my coworker? Not only did he not win anything, but there was this big piece of plastic in his sandwich. I was like, “Gross! Dude, you’ve got to get a new sandwich. And ask for your money back. And see if you can get some free cookies out of it.” But he was like, “Eh … well … I don’t know,” just totally too afraid of “making a scene,” whatever that means. He said it was cool, he just pushed the plastic to the side, but I could tell lunch was ruined.

For him anyway, but not for me. My lunch was awesome. And I kept telling him, “Man, this free lunch is the best!” because why not? I’ve got to maintain this positive attitude. I go like three, four years without ever winning anything, and all of the sudden it’s this, in the same week, my bike is fine and I get a free lunch. It’s just awesome. Go ahead and tell me that I don’t have to announce it, but you’re just jealous. And that’s not great. I’m great. I’m doing great, man, just terrific.

Eat fresh, baby

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to eat. I like to cook for myself, and ideally, I’d be preparing all of my meals in the house. But I go through these spells, they can last for days or even weeks at a time, where any motivation I have to plan ahead and go to the grocery store just evaporates. I wind up jumping from meal to meal, forever stuck in the moment, nothing in the house to satiate my unstoppable hunger, no choice but to go out and buy something fast, something quick.


I had Subway for lunch. It’s fine. I like Subway. But it’s just like, I don’t know, I go to Subway, I stand in line and wait for them to make my sandwich. There’s nothing about the process of getting a sandwich at Subway that really speaks to me anymore. That same feeling I get when I open up the refrigerator and see that there’s nothing inside is almost identical to what I experience as I wait on line for the Subway people to make my sandwich.

The Subway people at the Subway by my house are all foreigners, and whenever I go there, I can’t shake the feeling that they’re all kind of judging me, all of us, anybody who goes to Subway to eat Subway. I imagine them going home and saying stuff like, “These Americans, these idiots, lining up every day to eat this … this stuff … this whatever it is,” having a good laugh at the idea of selling us these five dollar foot longs.

I only say this because one time I was waiting on line for a sandwich and I saw one of the employees run outside. He came back later with a bunch of takeout from an ethnic restaurant. They work in a Subway, and they don’t eat Subway? I thought, man, that food looks good, much better than this sandwich that I was about to eat. But I was already invested in this line. It took me quite a while to make that conscious decision, to get out of the house, to make that walk down the block. Changing plans now that I was already this deep, well, it just wasn’t going to happen. I had to be content with the knowledge that these Subway employees might at least get some pleasure out of their food. I wonder if they ever eat Subway, or is just strictly business for them, a vehicle to make money and nothing else.

When I went to Subway today, there was a guy my age behind the counter. He was clearly new, because every time he tried to do something, he did it really cautiously. Like he carefully chose his words, asked people the same question multiple times. Every time he started an action, the manager would yell at him in a different language and take over, telling him to start doing something else. He’d start doing another task, and the process would repeat itself as he was continuously chased from job to job.

It was beyond uncomfortable, the way the boss didn’t really have any sort of awareness of how loud she was barking at this poor guy. She had originally started to make my sandwich when she caught him improperly placing the toppings on a sandwich further down the line. She relieved him of duty and sent him to finish setting up my order.

He kind of just looked at me, wide eyed, totally confused, “Uh … did you want this toasted?” And he made it halfway through spreading the tuna before the manager swooped back in to show him the correct way to put out individual slices of cheese.

As a different employee rung me up and swiped my credit card, I heard more screaming behind me, followed by an, “I’m sorry he’s so slow!” to a customer to my left. This guy was beyond patient, “No, it’s OK, everybody’s got to learn, right? I was the same way on my first day, very careful, making sure everything was perfect.”

And the manager just kind of glared, almost visibly insulted that the customer hadn’t sided with her, shared the contempt for this employee that couldn’t work fast enough. I could picture her thinking to herself, “Oh yeah? You think that makes it OK? It’s not OK. That guy’s not your boss. I’m your boss.”

I got home, the sandwich, whatever, it’s a Subway sandwich. I almost wished that I could just teleport it directly inside my stomach, to save me the ten minutes or so I’d actually have to spend chewing, swallowing. All of that yelling before, all for a sandwich, something way too basic to get so bent out of shape over.

If I could just talk to you about Cosmos for one second

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. I hate to interrupt your commute, I know, I know, we’re all tired of being interrupted on the train. But I come bearing good news, a message worth the minor convenience of listening to a complete stranger on the subway for an entire stop or two. Please, pay attention, this concerns you, me, it’s much bigger than all of us.


I’m talking about the infinite wonder of the cosmos. I’m talking about Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. You, sir, did you know that there are more stars in the night sky than there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches? It’s true. You know where I learned that? Watching Cosmos. It’s on every Sunday, but you can watch it on Hulu.

And what about you over there, ma’am, did you know that there are more atoms in an individual grain of sand than there are stars in the universe? Yep. I learned that on Cosmos also. It was from the same episode that I got that first fact. You’re supposed to say both facts back-to-back.

Sir, don’t look away, please, I know this is annoying, but I feel compelled to share this message, with you, with everyone. Put down your iPad, just for a second, come on. Wait, are you watching Cosmos? Really? That’s awesome. OK, you can put your headphones back on. Seriously? You’re really watching Cosmos? Let me see. Wow. I had this other guy a few stops back say the same thing, but he was just playing Candy Crush.

What about you over there, did you watch Cosmos this past Sunday? No? Well have you watched any of the series at all? What about the original Cosmos with Carl Sagan? No? It’s a little dated, yeah, but the message is the same. The message of the cosmos, all about science, about the universe. What if I give you five bucks, will you watch Cosmos if I pay you five dollars? Ten? That’s kind of steep. Fine, but only if you start watching it right now.

Yeah, I know, there’s no WiFi underground. Hey, sir, it’s me again. Listen, can you give one of your ear buds to this guy? So he can start watching Cosmos right here? With you? Yeah? Awesome. All right. Can you break a twenty? Well, I mean if you only have a five … but you have to promise to watch another episode as soon as you get home.

Officer, please, look, I’m not panhandling, OK, I’m just trying to get people excited about Cosmos. Do you guys ever watch it down at the precinct? Do you think the captain would be receptive to maybe playing episodes of Cosmos in the cells for people that get arrested overnight? I mean, they’re not really doing anything down there, they might as well have the opportunity to enrich their minds by immersing themselves in the infinite mysteries of the universe.

All right, I’ll stop. But you can’t stop science. On the scale of the cosmos, you’re nothing but an insignificant speck. Get your hands off of me! You think you’re bigger than the Cosmos? You think you’re bigger than Neil deGrasse Tyson? Unhand me! I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just trying to enlighten people about science.

Oh yeah? Or what? Say Cosmos one more time and what? You’ll do what? Huh? Say Cosmos one more time and you’re going to, what? Huh? Cosmos. Cosmos, Cosmos, Cosmos. Yeah, that’s what I thought, a whole lot of empty threats and …

All right, I’m sorry. Come on, put down the Taser, look, I said I’m sorry, come on man, I won’t say it again, OK, I promise, don’t you think it’s remarkable that our species evolved from one-celled organisms, and now we’re capable of harnessing the power of a lighting bolt in a handheld device? Come on, I’m sorry, I’m …

You’re not supposed to hang out on the stairs

I was taking the train a couple of weeks ago. Where I live, the subway is aboveground, so if you want to take a ride, you’ve got to walk up these two flights of stairs to get to the platform. And exactly halfway up, I ran into my old friend Greg, he was coming down the opposite direction, man, I hadn’t seen him in probably like five years, maybe longer. We caught each other’s eyes right away and stopped to say hi.


A lot of the time it’s a pain to have to stop and say hello to someone when you’re just trying to go about your day. But this was different, Greg used to be a pretty good friend, at least for me, this wasn’t your typical “hey how’s it going,” I mean, maybe it was a chore for him, but if it was, he was doing a good job of not letting me know it, trying his best to seem genuinely pleased to see me.

But after maybe fifteen seconds of pleasantries, right after we got the “It’s been such a long time!” automatic intro sentences out of the way, but right before we could really get into any specific “Where are you living these days?” advanced conversation points, this MTA employee comes up from behind me and gives us this really curt, “Listen, you guys can’t congregate on the stairs, OK, you’ve got to move.”

And yes, it wasn’t the ideal spot to catch up with an old friend, but it wasn’t super crowded, and we both made sure to move as far to the side of the staircase as possible. People were going around us. I’m very aware of whether or not I’m causing a traffic jam, and this was definitely not at all impeding the flow of foot speed.

So I kind of motioned to the MTA employee, like I didn’t say anything to him directly, but I made eye contact, I nodded, and then I looked back toward Greg with renewed urgency, like, yes, let’s continue what we’re doing here, but let’s maybe speed it up a little bit, because we are on the stairs, we can’t very well stand here for too much longer.

But the MTA guy wouldn’t have it, he wouldn’t even let Greg and me get in another back-and-forth, I was just about to ask what he was up to these days, but this guy shouts, “Look, I can’t let you just hang out here. OK, you either have to up the stairs, or you have to go down the stairs, but you can’t just stand here on the stairs.”

And I instantly got kind of annoyed, like yes, I know that we shouldn’t be standing here, but this is where this conversation happened to take place, OK, it’s not like I was like, hey, Greg, do you want to get together this afternoon to catch up? Yeah, great, meet me at the Broadway stop of the N train, the Northwest staircase, about halfway up.

Also, I resented this guy’s message, like, here, let me spell it out for you, let me give you one of these long detailed overly worded I’m-in-charge ways of communicating to you what could easily be said in three or four words. So I turned around, I looked this guy in the eye and I said, “Thank you,” while trying not to appear visibly pissed off, like I tried to smile, and I hoped to get the message across that, OK man, I hear you, we hear you, but thank you, now please go back to doing whatever else it was that you were doing before you came over here to start vigorously enforcing the no-standing-on-the-staircase rules.

So Greg and I kind of continued talking, but it was only like a word, maybe two words, because the MTA guy in his orange neon MTA worker’s vest was not having it. “Gentlemen,” he interrupted. And now I thought, OK, this guy’s not going to let up, maybe we should move? But where? Was I going to go all the way back down the stairs? Because Greg didn’t look like he was willing to walk all the way back up. What if one of us made that effort and then the conversation fizzled out? What if it turned out to be nothing more than a heavy initial dose of nostalgia before we both realized, wait a second, there’s a reason I haven’t seen this person in years, it’s because whatever it was that we had in common wasn’t strong enough to sustain a lasting friendship?

And this got me even more annoyed, like what the hell man, you can’t just let two people run into each other and say hi? Can’t you just take a hint? OK? I took your hint, right, you don’t want us standing here anymore. Hint taken. Can you now take my hint and leave us the fuck alone? Just for like a minute? How long do you really think we’re going to stand here? Is it that important to you that we move right this second?

And so I turned my attention from Greg toward the MTA guy, I started giving him the business, throwing out stuff like, “Why don’t you just back off, all right?” and more stuff like, “You’re not a cop, OK? You want to call the cops? Call the cops, because the last time I checked, MTA guys don’t really have too much in the way of actual authority.”

Which, I don’t know what I was going for here, it was a pure reaction. If I was thinking that my display of defiance might have somehow bought Greg and me a little more one-on-one time, I was wrong. Because even though this MTA guy might not have had any actual enforcement abilities, he was still wearing that vest, he still had a few non-arresting powers at his disposal.

Like getting-in-my-face powers, asking me if I was aware that threatening an MTA employee was a felony offense. “Who’s threatening? I’m not threatening?” I shot back with my hands in the air.

At this point Greg started heading down the stairs, “All right man, it was great to see you. Let’s catch up soon!” and I thought about going down with him, continuing the conversation at on the sidewalk, but that was it, the goodbye was said. And would our forced continued discussion be required to talk about the sort-of argument I had just engaged in with this total stranger?

Yeah, that conversation was over, I’d probably never see Greg again, not that it really mattered, not really. I was already feeling that nostalgia buzz start to die down somewhat. And then it was just me and the MTA guy, he was just staring at me, sort of smiling, like, ha, there goes your friend. I just turned and headed upstairs, muttering, “Asshole,” under my breath.

“What was that?” he screamed out after me, I guess I muttered it a little louder than I thought. But just as I considered saying something else, I realized, no, I muttered that exactly as loud as I had intended, just loud enough for him to hear me say it, and now I’ll just slip back into the background of the city, paying no attention to this crazy guy in an orange vest yelling up at some other guy already disappearing into a crowd of people waiting for the N train.