I recently took a trip by train to New York; the Big Apple, the Smoke, the Big Burrito, the Big Fruit Cake ( I may have made some of those names up). I went by train to beat the traffic but inadvertently opened myself up to mankind. I usually like mankind, but mankind on a train is different. This is mankind that can’t open a car door or is refused a driver’s license because they are too ugly.
Why are prisoners allowed to travel unaccompanied on trains? I am assuming they were prisoners – who else would be so nervous, so dirty (all prisoners work in machine shops) and so smelly. It was as if smelling of urine was a prerequisite to travel. I felt like an imposter in the “I peed my pants” convention. Everyone was wearing Eau de Human Eau – I felt I should be too, so to make everyone feel more comfortable, I conjured up that morning’s two large teas (my focusing techniques practice meetings proved invaluable) and promptly peed my pants. I felt instantly more comfortable. Convict number 78432 opposite me smiled approvingly.
Now, no longer an expat, instead one of the locals, I could more easily stare at my fellow stinkers. For extra cover I slipped on my dark Elvis look-alike Ray-Bans and scanned the group. 78432 put his on too. His were Elvis 1967 Comeback Special shades. Mine were 1975 standards. He had one-upped me. Embarrassed, I curled my lip at him in the universal “I know Elvis ” move. It seemed appropriate given that my train colleagues would likely be vomiting on the sidewalk and singing “Love Me Tender” to New York Tourists by nightfall.
The view from behind my dark glassses suddenly got worse. Where do you have to grow up to not know that you should’nt dig deep into your nose in public? Don’t answer that. To my right the founding member of the “Noses are your best friend club” was busy getting acquainted with his right nostril. I looked away 23 times. He had finesse, style, a certain flourish to his gouging, picking and smoothing techniques. I made score cards out of my train ticket (the pen ink ran and blurred a little on the now wet paper – I had been keeping it in my pocket) and held up a triumphant 8.5. Snot-man grinned and punched the air. I had made someone happy today. It felt good. And, feeling good, I decided to engage.
I cleared my throat (and my nose – hey, when in Rome…) and turned to my left. “Hi”…immediately my fellow travelers all had ipod ear pieces in. How did that happen? More importantly, how do convicts and nose pickers afford those pricey gagdets? How did they know I was going to speak? 78432 raised one finger at me and moved it slowly from right to left. It meant “You no talky.” He wasn’t Chinese but his sign language was. I was shut out again. I had wet myself, judged a snot retrieval exhibition but I was still chopped liver. I retracted that thought immediately – these guys probably ate chopped-liver-people like me for breakfast. They would smell my chopped liver fear and hurt me with it.
I was definately losing my grip on this train ride. Where was New York City when you needed it? Now I was afraid. I was alone in a sea of ipod listeners, who strangely were moving their legs to the same beat. They either had the same mp3 file playing or they were all peeing down their legs at the same time. A newspaper washed up on the tide at my feet.
That’s when I noticed nervous tick lady. She caught my attention only because I seemed to be experiencing deja-vue an inordinate amount of times on such a short train ride - 17 times in three minutes to be precise. Each time a lady in a bright red two-piece outfit had put her hair behind her ear, touched under her nose (greener man was obviously worrying her), bitten a nail off her hand, pushed her glasses up her nose and then played “We are the champions” by opening her mouth and flicking her cheek with her index finger. This sequence three times in a row – sure, that could be a freakish coincidence, but 17 times – I had to question if my deja-vue explanation was holding water. 78432 couldn’t hold his water and again he smiled.
Ear, nose, nail, glasses, musical ditty. She did it again. Ear, nose, nail, glasses, musical ditty – this time I did it. She noticed me. 78432 wagged his finger again: “No copy cwazy rady” he seemed to say. Cwazy rady did it all over again and again. She was now out of nails, so bit off her thumb. I had an idea. A mental check revealed that yes, I had scissors, Scotch tape, tissues, string, contact lenses and a mouth organ in my overnight bag. Grabbing these tools I leapt from my seat and landed next to Twitching Girl. In 20 seconds I had cut her hair into a 1930′s bob – no more hair going behind the ear; taped a wad of tissue under her nostrils – no more fear of drip there; cut all her nails (let’s just say I cut them so far up her fingers that she’ll never be invited to a nose-pickers soiree); grabbed her glasses and snapped them in half with my left hand while holding her eye lids wide open and pressed in (firmly but gently) my spare contact lenses into her somewhat surprised eyes with my right hand; tied her hands behind her back and scotch taped my mouth organ between her teeth. Three members of the stinky pants group held up 9.0, 9.5 and 7.0 (French judge) score cards. Nervous tick lady, obviously relieved, smiled a C-sharp at me and winked. I had helped someone else. It felt good. The rest of the trip was accompanied by the in and out breathing version of a Willy Nelson song, care of ol’ used-to-be-twitchy-girl, but it was OK by me.
I had done it. I had travelled by train to New York and I am a better man for it. I had experienced mankind in all its raw beauty and had experienced something lost since childhood – just how uncomfortable it is to sit in your own urine. I hardly ever choose to do that any more. Well, to be truthfull, I may indulge myself in a little incontinence at Christmas, as I’ve heard that 78432 is planning to visit for the holidays.