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Subway Sappers

By Tina Portelli


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Author Biography;

Tina Portelli, Brooklyn, NY

I started keeping journals for my personal use, then I thought, hey, these are pretty good stories, so now I am actively writing non-fiction short stories, which I hope will put a smile on every readers face! Most are about life in New York City and Me!

There are good hairdays and bad hairdays, just as there are good subway days and bad subway days. This was a bad one, both for my hair and my commute. Thirty years of riding the subway and I am happy to report that I have not had any bad experiences. (Until today) No rape, no robbery, just the ride from hell with every annoying element you can think of appearing in front of me. There is not a seat to be had and the only available pole is occupied by a pole hogger. No way can you get your fingers around that pole with Smokey the Bear leaning his full body against it. Dare I ask him to move? Think not.

I finally get lucky and get the unlucky seat. This unlucky seat should only be resorted to if you absolutely must sit down. It is the seat by the door. Either someone's arm or a coat, or a backpack will be leaning into the opening, onto your head. You can either say something and risk your life, or lean to the right or left for the rest of the ride, emerging with a pain in the neck. I have mastered the art of instinctively knowing when my stop is approaching. If I had to depend on the PA system to alert me, I'd be riding up to Yankee Stadium. Either you can't hear the announcements because the volume on the PA system is too low or, there's static at it's best. When the Conductor is finally able to get his voice heard, he either barely speaks English or he is so angry that morning, he is threatening to put the train out of service if they don't let go of the doors. He is not saying this politely either. Or, to the extreme, we get Conductor, Mr. Jolly, the wanna-be radio DJ, he won't get off the system. Jabbering like an idiot about nothing. And why does the conductor insist on referring to us as customers, when in fact we should be addressed as passengers. Have they not been trained to talk train? Moving right along, I am not only sitting in the unlucky seat, but next to a music lover. The sound emitted from CD players and walkmans were made for the ears of the owners, right? Wrong! They are played so loud that the music, or noise, which ever you want to call it, assaults my delicate ears. These people must truly be deaf. Anyone could easily hear this blasting nose from across the car.

Riding along, when a mother boards with her crying brood. And why on earth would a mother travel in rush hour with a stroller and three kids anyway. Can she not leave a half-hour sooner, or later? No, my toes have been run over with the stroller wheels. Not that I don't have pity for the poor woman, but please pay attention to where you are driving that thing. As I am riding along, minding my own business, toe in pain, trying to tune all this out, across comes the infamous empty soda bottle rolling on the floor that no one will pick up. They just kick it from side to side as if there is a soccer game in progress. Being the nice lady that I am, I finally pick it up to dispose of it once I leave the train. I am not doing this for the nickel deposit or to recycle, but to rid myself of this annoyance. So now I am carrying germs in a bottle.

A struggling overweight woman boards and takes a seat across from me. She takes up a seat and a half. Being a person of compassion, this would be fine with me, however, there are those who insist on squeezing into that little half seat. Would it kill them to just stand and let the person sit in peace and comfort? Then comes the highlight of this ride home, when my eyes become fixated. Two women, twins, about sixty years old sit across from me. They are dressed exactly the same! I can accept children who are twins and are playing the fashion game, but these two old bags? Their hair was jet black, not a strand of grey, piled high in a beehive, not a hair out of place, on either of them. They are wearing bright ruby red lipstick with white pancake make-up. They wore a black and white herringbone coat with a patent leather handbags. And, white gloves. The war is over ladies, it is not 1940 and you are not twelve.

What ever happened to Baby Jane? These two would know. They must have had their mother in a plastic garbage bag somewhere plastered in a wall. I almost missed my stop. The sight of these two really screwed up my automatic pilot. While many of my complaints are noise related, the crux of is the lack of plain old fashioned consideration. Basically, people are traveling as if they are in the back seat of their privately driven limo. If I could only introduce crowds to manners, what a ride it would be.

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