Everyone who rides the subway inevitably sees a lot of odd stuff go down. People who file into their cars at the end of day have no concept of what they are missing, whether for the best or the worst. After a long enough period of time on the train, if you travel without companions, public transportation is somehow transformed to a semi-private form of mobility--you no longer fully acknowledge the other people on the train--or if you do, they are more like the scenery you would train your eyes to look past as you speed down the highway. Sometimes in the mornings, you vaguely recognize the same people who get on your train daily, but often at night, if your schedule is at all varied, you never really see the same people, and this provides a comfort level of anonymity. You might, and probably never will, see these people again. And that's the beauty of it, isn't it? You could pass your trip under the radar, unobserved and at peace, or you could make a total ass of yourself by accident, and either way the incident passes into the vacuum of things that really don't matter. Even if other people on the train remember you, or you them, there is no outlet for significance (except perhaps a blog post). But that is not entirely true. Although the people may not be particularly significant in terms of personal relationship, the education you get from riding might just be worth the exorbitant monthly ticket price.
M.Snowe is always struck by the surprises that commonly arise in course of a subway ride. Here are a few of the enlightening summaries that one new to subway riding should be aware of:
1. Expect the unexpected.
This means that anything can and will occur. But usually, these feats of unbelievability take on a more mundane yet no less profound aspect. Example: A dirty, grungy guy schleps into the train and plops down next to you. He's wearing some fancy kicks and has a bandanna. Everything about him says hardcore thug. Then, he whips out a copy of Aeschylus' plays and digs in. Lesson: Never judge a person by their cover, the cover of their book is much more telling in terms of their theory of mind.
2. Be ready for some singing.
People with and without Ipods will sing, hum, scat, a cappella, and rap. Sometimes they are looking for money. Other times they are completely unaware that anyone else is listening, or cares. While some people find this burdensome, M.Snowe believes it to be the final breaths of our collective consciousness, which with the advent of ipods, mobile phones and other isolating devices, has been ailing so long it is in its final death throes. So please, listen to the swan song of these "crazy" and inconsiderate simple folk.
3. Your mood dictates the quality of your ride.
This is less subway info than a general commentary on the nature of travel. For instance, while in a good mood, even the most annoying fellow travelers can be passed with only mild irritation, or the disagreeability of others in response to annoyances seems to be drastically out of proportion. You wonder "why is everyone getting so bent out of shape by something as small as public urination?"
more to follow...