Friday, July 18, 2008

Commuter Tales

As a rider of mass transit for over four years now, I can tell you some stories (couple days ago, one of the train cars smelled like an overflowed toilet, primarly, I found out through superior sleuthing, because of an overflowed toilet). Unlike when I first became someone Al Gore would like to kiss on the mouth, I do not get irked at some of the behaviors of my fellow passengers, behaviors that *I* personally would not engage in. I've come to accept that people do not hold themselves to the same lofty standards to which I aspire. Thus, in the interest of community, of Can't We All Just Get Along, I have relaxed my guidelines, which has also caused my stress level to dwindle.

For instance, I used to get quite peeved when tall or large people sat facing me. Because I have long legs and there's a finite amount of space to situate the lower body. I look for seats opposite Asian women or pygmies, or that one lady who's round like a ball and whose feet dangle hilariously a few inches above the floor of the car. That's what a smart person does. Oblivious idiots sit anywhere. "Hey! A seat! Yee-Haw!"

Sure, I'll still flash them a look of annoyance when they suck up all the available space so the rest of the ride resembles a square dance as our knees and feet jockey for position. But I can't expect people to be as aware as I, as forward thinking. It's just not fair to the population at large to hold them to that standard. What I can do is affect my Don't Fuck With Me Face or my Idiot Repellent Body Language. It does work. It's communication and even people who struggle to open an envelope still have a cerebral cortex capable of telling them, unconsciously, not to go near the unspoken danger. Alas, plenty of others fail that test, the kind of people who approach hungry pit bulls wearing a meat condoms.

Yesterday was a new one. The person who sat across from me did not have long legs. His belly protruded a fair amount, but there was plenty of floor space between us. This fact did not stop him from resting his knee against mine. Or putting his other foot right on top of mine.

I didn't look up from my book when he first sat. Saw him in my periphery, leaned my right leg slightly left to allow him safe passage to the aisle and seat. It was only when his knee's caresses began that I took his measure. His totally drunk measure. Fucker was hammered. He had a Peach Nectar juice can in his hand and he smelled like spoiled fruit. Vodka, I guessed. Lots before boarding and quite possibly some in the can he held. When I looked up at him, he gave me a creepy, yellow-toothed grin. He had the red-burnt skin of a man used to working outside and a faded tattoo on his forearm the color of snot, the kind one gets in the military when traveling through southeast Asia. His eyes were bloodshot and his head bobbed with the rhythm of the train.

I carefully re-adjusted my bottom half, gaining space, and went back to my book. I kept watching him, however, peeking above my sunglasses as he twitched. Several times, his legs made contact with mine, a severe etiquette breach in the quiet brotherhood of the train. I sighed, exhaled with purpose. Stared right at him. I'm not sure he'd have noticed if I hit him with a maple bat.

Then he fell asleep and after a chapter or two, so did I. What woke me was his hand gripping my thigh. Not hard, but, as I deduced, for balance. He was very much in danger of toppling right over. The cat had my tongue and all I could do was give him an expression of "Really?," eyebrows arched and arms spread wide. Our friend was clearly not a student of body language, so my only recourse was to grab him around the wrist and prop him up. He stared at me like I'd just wiped a booger on him.

I was awake and standing sentry. Fellow passengers had begun to notice his behavior and I saw wry smiles and nose-in-the-air disgust. Throughout the rest of the ride, his antics included crumbling up his can of Peach Nectar and throwing it under his seat, like he was at a ballgame pawing at me every fucking stop to ask if it was the Fontana Station and best of all, putting both his feet up on the seat when I moved across the aisle as people got off the train.

I think he thought he was in his living room. Or at least his garage.

He was sound asleep when I got off. Fontana was the next stop. I'm pretty sure he took the train all the way to the end of the line.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger Div said...

My current peeve is the kids who insist on using their mobile phones as loudspeakers. Usually to play some tinny, thousand BPM hardcore rave 'music'.

Clearly the law is an ass, as I'm not allowed to carry a claw hammer on the train, and levy an 'on the spot fine' by pulverising their phone at the first mechanical beep.


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