As heard on the subway

This morning, I was having my usual full-body experience with complete strangers on the subway.  At 86th Street, three guys got on the subway together.  It sounded like they were neighbors.  They were in their 40s and 50s, but they could have easily been kids in a school yard.

The short, balding, rotund guy with bad teeth (Nebisch) was trying to impress his two friends by talking about a pending lawsuit over unauthorized use of information.  He apparently knows the person who is suing for a significant sum.  This guy signed a confidentiality agreement, but didn’t read it — at least that is what he said.  He wasn’t allowed to talk about it or the name of the case, but it rhymed with . . . and well it is a matter of public record. . . .  And, thanks to the conversation on the subway, a matter of subterranean record.


I think Nebisch wanted his “friends” to know that he knows/is related to/hangs with a person who stands to make a lot of money.

One of the “friends” is a taller guy, full head of hair, with expensive coat and shoes, that didn’t work with the pedestrian shirt and tie (Bully).

Bully egged on Nebisch to breach his confidentiality agreement and pushed him to say more than he wanted.  At his core, Bully is insecure.  He looked around every time he said something to see who was noticing him.

Bully used the usual tactics he has honed for thirty years — diminishing and challenging everything Nebisch said.  And, Nebisch, wanting to undo those childhood memories with any number of bullies, had something to prove and was pushed to say more than what was comfortable.

The third guy had his back turned to me, so I couldn’t get a read on him, other than he did nothing to help or hinder the conversation.  But he is necessary to this vignette because his presence, together with his silence (Enabler), enabled both Nebisch and Bully to assume their school yard roles dance the age-old dance.

I was able to block most of it because I get embarrassed listening.  Besides, I generally operate on a need-to-know basis (if I don’t need to know, then, really, really, I don’t need (or want) to know — mostly because my brain capacity is shrinking daily).

Eventually, Nebisch got very frustrated with Bully and Bully got bored (people were not paying enough attention) and, without more, Enabler was no longer a catalyst. I guess people do grow up and don’t run into on-coming traffic to prove they are tough enough.

At 59th Street, the subway car cleared and there was enough room to move away from the trio.  As I maneuvered through the subway car, a woman asked if I wanted a seat.

“No,” I said, “I just need to stop listening to that car crash of a conversation.”  She laughed and offered me the seat again.