Urban Schlep U.

It seems I’m not the only one who has a commuting family aboard the morning train, or notices the same elderly man reading tabloids at Starbucks on Saturdays. The wise and witty Sheldon Cooper, I mean Jim Parsons, spoke to all of us schlepping through NYC during an appearance on The Daily Show a few weeks back:

“I don’t know what you majored in, but I see you on the L train, I see you on the 1, it’s like we’re all on this 1 mile campus together.”


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Tactless Acts of Public Preening

Tuesday morning, en route to Jury Duty, I wrote a little poem. It goes like this:

Mirror, mirror
Or subway door,
Public preening
Is the worst.
Get a room, people!

This phenomenon, the Tactless Act of Public Preening, is quickly becoming one of my most amusing, befuddling, disturbing preoccupations. First, it was the woman who arrived to the Barnes and Noble Starbucks, took up a table and two chairs when people were waiting, and proceeded to apply three brand new, fresh-from-the-wrapper tubs of fancy creams to her face, neck, legs and ashy elbows. And then packed up and left.

Then it was this girl, who rode the entire E train stretch from 42nd Street–Port Authority to 14th Street looking at her reflection in the window, adjusting her dress. She tugged, she twisted, she tucked, she bloused, she shifted…on and on to no end. Until it had to end because she had to get off. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great dress. And I have a feeling it looked like J. Crew perfection when she left her apartment that morning. But she was compelled to primp. Something incredibly strange happens in New York when millions of people are around and one feels entirely anonymous. It’s the same phenomenon that allowed a man to fondle his wife’s foot across a booth during dinner in a Mexican restaurant. And the same syndrome that led this woman to believe she could try a heap (heap!) of bras on in front of a mirror in the middle of a SoHo Forever 21:

Yes, lady. It fits. As did the prior 9 bras you tried on over your white button down. Meanwhile, in the time it took you to try on said bras, I waited for, entered, used and exited the dressing room. Why not just take in six at a time? Try them on in the privacy of a dressing room? Where you can put them on as one would a real bra, underneath your clothes?

So my question is this: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? And if a person tries on bras in public, are they no longer undergarments? Where is the urban line between private and public drawn? Maybe New Yorkers just forget they’re in public because so much of our day is spent in anonymity that we might as well be alone. Maybe, though, there is an element of intentional boundary blurring on a subconscious level so as not to feel so disconnected in a place where one is so easily set adrift.

I wanted desperately to tell the Bra Lady that the green was not her color. But then I hesitated. What if she wasn’t actually soliciting public feedback by dressing in a public venue?? What if this phenomena, so bizarrely inappropriate to me, is considered normal by native New Yorkers? What if, one day soon, I find myself finishing up my morning routine in the middle of a full subway car as strangers look on? So I snapped my picture and proceeded to lock the dressing room door behind me.

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Friday Night in Times Square

I’ve never done it before and I will hopefully never do it again, but tonight I am having a solo moment in the middle of Times Square. And as I sit and savor my snack size McFlurry in a street-facing seat in a 24-hour McDonald’s, I feel a little at peace amidst the most incessant bustle I think I have ever seen. Behold: urban rest.


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Ride at Your Own Risk, Revisited

Dear Tri-State Area,

I thought we had finally come to an agreement, you and I. You would continue on as always and I would try to traverse more calmly through, below and around you. Unfortunately, we arrived today at an impasse aboard the pre-commute Uptown E train. For while calmly debarking the car, and following all codes of conduct as outlined in the Unofficial Book of Train Riding Protocol, which states, per Article I, that all “Local riding patrons should rise only once the car has arrived in the station; file orderly out of the central space between open doors; keep personal belongings and limbs close to the body as riders waiting to board the car part like the Red Sea,” I fell victim to an atrocious and unforgivable riding faux pas.

A very fat woman and an Asian man with an equally fat suitcase began their boarding, coming at me from both sides, like massive sea walls collapsing before the final Israelite could complete her crossing into the Promise Land (That’s me!) And with every ounce of calm I have slowly been cultivating during the past three years in New York, I continued onward and outward. This tactic has worked for me before; many riders will correct their egregious behavior by taking one step back when you resist. However, these two Goliaths were so set on moving into the damn car with their oversized selves that, from the depths within my soul, something stirred. And a full-sized New Yorker emerged. And, leaning forward and pushing with more force, I yelled at those a*holes with my hardest, baddest, streetest tone: WILL YOU RELAX FO A MINUTE!?

Which brings me back to my point, Tri-State Area, that you’ve got me all hot and bothered. Because just when I thought I could keep you at bay, you seem to have seeped into me. And the truth is, even though I’m a little scared by this phenomenon, I also kind of like it. Because as I triumphantly marched toward the escalator, headphones and pride still in tact, I listened; nobody was yelling back.

Apparently Yours Truly,
Your NewNewYorker

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The Giants are in the midst of a Super Bowl showdown but we interrupt your broadcast to bring you a new series: Unidentified Substances on Subway Floors.


Reported by my correspondent Gab as “maybe Ranch dressing but thicker.” Gross.

Unidentified Substances on Subway Floors

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