Early last week, before the city emptied out for the long holiday weekend, the west side subways were few and far between during the height of morning rush hour.
Apparently, our ancient and under-maintained system is sensitive to heat and humidity, just like its average rider.
When the train finally arrived, there was barely any room to squeeze on, even to this experienced native. We were so packed in that no one could feel the air conditioning. And I was too close to someone whose bathing rituals are far too intermittent for a New York City summer.
The car started to clear out a little at 96th Street, as people ran across the platform for the express train. I moved into the middle of the car, where there was a little room to breathe (other than in someone else’s arm pit). In fact, there was even more room than usual because I was standing in front of half a seat, you know, what remains after “spill-over” from adjoining seat holders. A regular size human could not wedge into that space with a crow bar.
An old woman boarded the train. She looked like the kind grandmother of a Hallmark TV movie (and not the hatchet-bearing psycho nana from a “Lifetime Original” one. And I am not talking about a buxom Yiddisha bubbe. She was frail, diminutive and wore a sweater she could have knitted.
The half-seat was just right for the old lady. I motioned to the people closer to Grandma to get her attention. Only one man in his early 40s saw me and asked her if she needed a seat. She smiled in gratitude and maneuvered in front of him. He looked up and pointed her three more seats down to the half-seat.
DUDE: ARE YA KIDDIN’ ME? REALLY? AN OLD WOMAN MISTAKES YOU FOR A HUMAN BEING AND YOU DECLINE THE COMPLIMENT?
OK YOU ARE MARGINALLY BETTER THAN THOSE WHO REFUSED TO LOOK UP FROM THEIR GADGETS, ETC., OR DIDN’T CARE THAT SOMEONE NEEDED A SEAT.
Luckily, the old lady made it to the half-seat. And, it turned out that she was more of the hatchet-wielding psycho nana than the sweet old doting kind. (She got a little nasty about the train not going fast enough and the appointment she had.)
BUT IT ISN’T ABOUT WHO SHE IS. IT IS ABOUT WHO WE ARE.