Thursday, August 18, 2011

I can't help it.

I ride the subway to work; I have most mornings and evenings since moving to this big sticky city three and a half years ago. By now, I've more than memorized the commute. Coffee in hand, iPod in ears, I float past mass transit's daily motley crew. Swiping my subway card, pushing through the turnstile, dodging puddles of urine on the platform- it's my routine.

Hang out underground long enough and you get accustomed to a whole load of crazy. In fact, it takes a lot- probably too much- to elicit a double take or surprise from me these days. By now, my tolerance for weirdos is high.

The other day while trying not to stare at a middle-aged male passenger who was wearing a toga and smearing his face with red and blue pastel crayons- I decided I should probably tell you (dear readers) all about what goes down, down there.

I decided there are three main categories of crazies encountered, on a daily basis, on New York City's proud subway system.

1. Harmless Crazy

The man in the toga neatly sums up this "type". They are the ones wearing ridiculous clothing, and I'm not talking Goth piercings, emo eyeliner or other mainstream misfits. These people wear togas, Chiquita banana hats (true) and superhero capes with a very straight face. They carry super sized plastic bags stuffed with 1,000 empty soda cans during rush hour (literally). Or they dress normal, but act ridiculous- like the old lady on the L-train who asked me to unhook the earrings from her droopy earlobes (I reluctantly said yes) and, 4 minutes later, asked me to hook them back in.

They are harmless and, for the most part, entertaining.

2. Please Don't Kill Me Crazy

As the classification hints, this second category of subway riders are pretty freaking scary. I'm referring to the junkies and other cracked out lunatics that like to talk to themselves or, even better, shout and flail their arms at imaginary enemies. These dudes are everywhere, and for the first five seconds when you wonder if "I'm gonna
break your f***ing face" is directed at you, they can be terrifying. Lucky for all of us, they are rarely ever talking to anyone on the train. These ladies and gents are caught up in an entirely different reality- which apparently includes that dead mother bleeper who stole their Miller Lite lawn chair (to paraphrase).

3. Please Don't Poop On Me Crazy

It's the worst kind of subway crazy. The kind that makes you want to shower for 6 hours and/or knock yourself out in hopes that amnesia will erase the memory of what you saw or smelled. And it's not always poop. Once I was on a train with an old woman who was pouring entire bottles of rubbing alcohol all over her unnaturally dirty bare feet. Another time- brace yourself- a man dropped a used condom on the floor in front of me. I'm still traumatized.

Three years in New York, 3,000+ subway rides, 3 categories of crazy. Have I had enough?

Three words: I heart NYC

I can’t help it.

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