Hysterical Encounters I

August 17th, 2008 § 0 comments

(on the subway)

Riding down to the east village, meeting friends for drinks before the onslaught of rain, required connecting with one of the numerous trains cutting across town. Three years on subways in Chicago teaches you that some seats are more preferable to others, for various reasons: leg room, distance from others, direction of the seats to the trains direction. Of the usual three seated bench facing into the train car I always pick the seat by the door, preferring one person to my right than being sandwiched between two.

The elderly lady who entered the train a few stops after us, did not seem to prefer this seat, however, instead taking the far end of the bench, closest to us, and giving me the advantage of staring at her profile without detection. She was perhaps in her mid-sixties; she was dressed in the usual fashion of those living on the Upper East Side, conservative in essence but outlandish enough to show the “designer” quality of her clothes. In a pantsuit of assorted floral patterns, she was brightly colored in greens and yellows, having even yellow flowered earrings to match. She sat in a prim manner radiating dislike of subways, and these people they cart about the city. We smirked slightly upon her arrival, and she looked as uncomfortable on the subway as we generally do walking in the Upper East Side.

The train loaded and unloaded as we bonked our way toward St. Marks, waves of new people periodically looking for seats. I noticed our lady again as she seemed to be having a kind of fit—her eyes were rolling, her breathing heavy, her body fidgeting—and looking beyond her I realized why. A tall man with large hands in a turban had taken a seat next to her, at her great reluctance, and it was embarrassingly apparent she thought he was a “terrorist”, and her time had come. She was frozen with fright, darting glances every so often at the briefcase he held in his lap, she seemed convinced (through how many Hollywood films?) that it was a bomb. I was startled by her reaction, the man looked a bit tired as new yorkers do when they have been working all day, but otherwise was not the least bit offensive in appearance. I wondered why she did not bolt off the train, perhaps because in United 93 style he would have cut her throat? I don’t suppose she will be riding the subway again anytime soon, even though our “terrorist” in question was a Sikh; so much for the liberal minded new yorker.

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