Monday, November 24, 2008

Train to Crazytown

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to get on the W train and flop my hiney into one of many available seats. I cracked open the Metro and basked in the soft, noisless calm of a morning commute during a holiday week. Aaaaah.

Then the train rolled up on the Lexington Avenue stop. As we slowly approached the crowded platform, I heard an eerie sound that I couldn't quite place. Could one thousand bunnies be getting mutilated with ice picks on the subway platform? No, no, no...that can't be it. Maybe it was a child screaming, I thought.

Awsome. There's must be an angry toddler, strapped in a stroller against his will, freaking the fuck out and about to be wheeled right into my car, signaling the end of my peaceful ride to work. Great. Thanks, god. Fucker.

I looked through the windows and was unable to see the shrieking little fucker in the crowd. Man, he was mad, huh? And as the doors opened the raspy, phelgm-choked warbles got louder, and then I saw the source of the noise.

It wasn't a child at all. It was a middle-aged woman.

She was clad in a heavy red parka and had short hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Strapped to her back was a brand-new backpack with a NY Jets emblem on it (and they won this week, so I know that wasn't making her upset).

Wait, what? This woman looked like a librarian or a first grade teacher, not some lunatic shrieker.

And yet. As the doors closed, encasing this horrified, psychotic littler person in the car with us, she continued to pour forth a bone-chilling shriek, kicking occasionally at the heavy metal subway doors with her sneakered feet. From time to time I could make out some form of a sentence in her shrieking: "NONONOIDON'TWANNA", or something to that effect.

It was creepy and sad, but New Yorkers have a way of deciphering right away when a crazy person is dangerous, or just a run-of-the-mill spectacle we simply shouldn't make eye contact with. This lady was clearly the latter, as was evident in the way the commuters (myself included) eyed her with mild curiosity, then calmly inserted our ear buds and cranked up our ipods.

Now, I couldn't help feeling a little badly about this (I'm Italian, and also was rasied Catholic, so guilt is sort of my stock emotion most of the time, but still); I felt bad that our first instinct is to ignore someone right in front of us with an obvious mental illness. The mommy in me wanted to walk up to the woman and wrap my arms around her until her screaming ceased. I wanted to just hug the shit out of whatever inner child was reliving a terrible trauma continuously on the MTA for all of early morning NYC to see.

I'm not gonna stand on some soap box and expound on the ills of a society that treats the crazies of the world with antipathy and disdain. The whole thing just struck me as sad, is all. I'll leave it at that.

18 comments:

The Third String said...

My dear Krock, society has numbed itself to a dangerous point. Just this morning, I watched three neighbors drive past me in the pouring rain without offering a ride. If we can do this to each other as neighbors, then what we are capable of with a stranger is frightening.

Krissyface said...

ack.
Agreed. Fuckers.

Scooter said...

Hmmm.

I suppose maybe a bit of an outside perspective is required? The woman was allowed to behave in a manner that while disruptive, was not dangerous. I think it speaks volumes about the character of New Yorkers that you just let her be. You didn't try to fix what you couldn't, and you did not try to stop her from expressing herself. Pretty tolerant, really.

As for people driving past you, Three String, perhaps they did not see you? Perhaps they assumed that you wanted to be out in the rain? Defaulting to the assumption that they willfully ignored someone that they thought was in distress is cynical.

Krissyface said...

Scooter, Thank you for your perspective. As a lifelong New Yorker, it's easy to default to the jaded way of looking at things. But I watch the way we behave with one another in general and agree that we are more tolerant than most.

Still, I couldn't help feeling sad.

Sproactually said...

Last I heard the "W" train was pretty much the ugly duckling of the entire B division trains.

So why ride the local, when you can ride the N train?

Things the way they should be...
http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?2970

Those nice noisy not air conditioned cars would have drowned out any outside noises.

Krissyface said...

I have to ride the local, Steve.
My stop is 23rd street, and the fabulous express N train skips that shit.

Pronto said...

Thank god

you had your ipod.


(sorry, didn't mean to rhyme)

The Third String said...

scooter, you may be right on two counts but one of them fuckin' waved to me! Can you picture that? I can only hope that he was in an extreme hurry to not miss a bus or something. Like your take on the positive side though.

nitewalk6 said...

If we were to put this situation to the test in other countries and societies would the result be the same?
Are we jaded in this country OR as humans?
Non-committal doesn't make us bad, we know inside when we can and should help and when it's best to keep our distance and let someone or no one take over.
Perhaps she is an ex-kindergarten teacher.

xl said...

I think we move around in our comfortable bubbles. When something like that penetrates it, we are at a loss to know what is "right" anymore. Unsettling

catscratch said...

I have a tendency to go into ignore mode. I hate that about myself, but it's true.

I ignore people acting insane, I ignore bratty kids in shopping areas.....

Prunella Jones said...

I had to ride the bus for a few months when I lived in Los Angeles (it's true, nobody walks in LA)and met tons of babbling crazies. I didn't mind them (unless they peed in their seats) and some were very interesting to talk to. I met one lady who told me she was Carlos Santana's ex wife. She seemed about the right age and told such detailed stories that I began to wonder if maybe she was telling the truth. Did getting dumped by a rock star maybe drive this woman over the edge? I even tried google to see if I could find out any info on Santana's wives with no luck. It was intriguing. Now everytime I hear the song Black Magic Woman I picture that chick rocking and babbling at the bus stop and think, "Carlos, you asshole!"

jeremy said...

you have to be careful hugging the crazies, lest you run the risk of catching the aids or possibly even getting dirty.

you wouldn't want to go to work dirty, would you?

Jack said...

How come you never wrap your arms around me? It's just as well, it's your fault she's crazy. It's your hotness, and that of your friends.

No, wait. That's me.

Mr. Poopie said...

Nah, she probably just had athlete's foot and was desperately trying to supress the itch without having to take off her sneakers . . . again.

ty bluesmith said...

ok so like i used to work the desk on the midnite shift at a hotel on 30th and Lex. it was horrible unless you like watching hookers catch chin shots from pimps.

anyway. after 25 yrs. in manhattan and of course the planet of bklyn, i am happy when i say i no longer have the problems of that city on my black.

my cold cold back.

DestructiveCriticism said...

But you saw her... then actually looked at her. Most folks aver their eyes and pretend they're not there.

Sure the end result is the same (ya don't actually "do" anything), but looking at them, acknowledging their existence at least in that small way, is something...
.
.
.
.
and maybe "something" is better than the "nothing" of pretending they're not there at all.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

A sad story. I hope that woman finds herself and can have a good life someday. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!