SHOUT, SHOUT, LET IT ALL OUT!
These are the things I could do without.
C’MON YES I’M TALKING TO YOU, C’MON. – Tears for Fears
Most of the time, I am a relatively calm, rational person. I am living my little life in NYC. I like conversation. I like being connected. I like reading on the subway. I like people. And people watching. I am genuinely open and curious about others and the world. I do not take anything too seriously and have learned to just move along with whatever comes my way. That’s me on MOST DAYS.
Then there are some days where I just CANNOT TAKE the people around me. I can not handle the noises (loud talkers, noisy chewers, blaring (or worse tinny) speakers on phones, iPads and assorted devices), the closeness, the smelly-ness, the intrusive nature of getting from point A to point B all around NYC. Without fail, I always start to lose it in the summer. Something flips inside of me and I am no longer calm, quiet commuting me.
There’s something about the heat that adds a layer of edginess. Unwanted interactions with strangers are never enjoyable in the first place. Something about the summer and the excessive sweating seems to lead to an increase in sad, expressionless faces on the subway. Imagine a lot of Eeyores staring back at you every heated morning through July + August. That doesn’t feel good, right?
It’s bad enough to travel together, all crammed up. Now we are traveling together + there’s the possibility of breathing hot breath on each other, sweaty arms brushing up and all-around feeling collectively disgusting. Don’t even get me started on guys’ backs and their sticky shirts covered in odd patches of perspiration. Or the sick passengers that pass out in the summer. No, no, no please do not board the train. Do not make this commute worse.
Over 10 years ago, I was shuffling off this exact kind of crowded train when a guy behind me started pushing me and shouting “Hurry up already! Get off the f*cking train!” I turned around and impulsively yelled back “There’s an old lady ahead! There is NO HURRYING UP here!” There really was an old lady, I didn’t make that up. She had a cane and everything. He piped down + stopped pushing. Then I started thinking, “What am I doing? What if this guy is unstable? What if he follows me off the train?” But nothing happened. We both got off the train and went about our business. It was the one and only time I yelled at someone on the subway. Oh wait, except for a guy who was going to jump down on the tracks to get his cell phone.
Which brings me up to current day commuting me. Current day me has been traveling about for over a decade. I walk on the sidewalk, I wait for buses, I sweat on the subway platform with the 8.5 million other people here. It’s summer and current day me feels the anger bubble up inside. I start thinking ridiculous thoughts, like “What if at the next stop, I real quick pull that guy’s headphones out and toss them onto the tracks? Then what? Would he just play his speedy-techno-dance music at full tilt on his speaker at 7.15 am? Hmmm. Probably. Guess I better not risk it. ” Or “What if this couple who squeezed their way onto the crowded train, and remain separated by at least 3 people, just stopped their conversation like normal human beings? Why can’t they stop talking? Why are they still deciding over all of our heads where their dinner plans will be after work?” FYI: It was either Momofuku or Dos Caminos. All the while I’m thinking “SHUTUP.” Then I realize I am thinking terrible, evil thoughts. And I am not usually thinking dark, sinister things. But the summer heat does something to my brain. Slows it down? Makes it denature? I don’t know what’s happening, but I know it’s not good.
So recently when wishing someone would stop smacking their lips quite so much while eating their buttered bagel on the 7 train, I decided it was time to re-think things. I needed a new way to get around. And I started thinking these two little words anytime someone aggravated me: CITIZEN’S ARREST!!!!
I also envisioned an arrest with me leading the way. In my mind, I have power. I am a citizen and I can and will arrest you during this commute. Shouting it repeatedly helps: CITIZEN’S ARREST!!!! YOU ARE UNDER CITIZEN’S ARREST!!!!
Here are some recent offenders I have arrested in my mind. There is a fake badge and a smug attitude to go with it. You can choose your own style here, please don’t let me limit you:
1. Guy opening a tupperware + removing a pre-peeled, hard boiled egg during rush hour. Not only did he suck down 1, but he managed to eat a 2nd stanky egg before he departed. The guy speaking Spanish next to me also did not approve (Que come un huevo? – Who eats an egg? he said). EXACTLY. CITIZEN’S ARREST! YOU AND YOUR TUPPERWARE!
2. A guy walking in front of me at a good clip in Grand Central Station. We were underground. People were moving briskly. He suddenly stopped to answer his cell phone. “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? I just got off the subway. I was on the green line. Hello? Can you hear me?” No, he cannot hear you and YOU ARE UNDER CITIZEN’S ARREST!!!! CITIZEN’S ARREST, I SAID!!! For answering the phone. And for saying the green line. That’s two summonses for you.
3. And this one has been bothering me for years: all the sidewalk solicitors that pop up when the weather warms up. You know these people. They are wearing little vests or matching T-shirts that say “Save the baby owls” or “Children in NEED.” They sometimes have brochures. The last few years I’ve noticed they have iPads that you can just tap and sign. The solicitors say things like “Hey Hi – Can I ask you a question? It will only take 12 seconds of your time” Or “I only talk to tall-ish pretty girls with gray hats.”
Disclaimer: I have had a whole history with solicitors. I used to say “I don’t speak English” in Spanish or I’d smile and act like I didn’t understand. Then I started saying crazy things back like, “Actually, I have a question for you!” and “See? I am walking faster to avoid this conversation.” Now I simply shout in my mind CITIZEN’S ARREST! CITIZEN’S ARREST for disturbing me while walking. 2nd summons for wearing ridiculous vests. 3rd summons for walking alongside me when clearly, I am trying to run away from you. YOU HEARD ME. CITIZEN’S ARREST x 3!!!
So, as the heat in NYC goes well over the 90 degree mark, I urge you to keep your cool. Do not lose your mind on the way to work. Do not look back in anger. Do not envision fellow sad-sack commuters meeting an untimely demise. I urge you to shout, shout, let it all out. Go ahead, make a CITIZEN’S ARREST !!! in your mind and see the results for yourself. (there is something oddly satisfying about all of it).
Happy Summer to everyone sweating it out across NYC and beyond. Thanks as always for reading. Extra thanks to my Metro Card for all the subway and bus rides.
- DISPATCH FROM THE LAND OF ONLINE DATING
- A LITTLE LIST OF T-SHIRTS I SAW YESTERDAY