This time I wasn’t directly involved with the narrowly-avoided fight, but I and an entire subway car full of vaguely anxious twenty-something white guys probably came away from the whole thing feeling like we narrowly avoided getting our asses kicked.
I was hanging out with the indefatigable (my favorite word) Ajai Raj, after he returned stateside from the land of ear-chopping serial murderers and adorable koala bears. Anyways, we got his trundlebox and rucksacks back into his apartment and then had a few beers and burgers at a nearby tavern (coincidentally, where he nearly had his ass kicked several months prior) before I headed back home on the subway.
It was around 10:30 or 11:00, so Union Square was crowded with drunks when I transferred to the L. I shoved my way into the car, and, since I’m 6’5, 250 lbs, and a nice guy, immediately positioned myself in the furthest corner so other people could get around me. Then, since I didn’t have a book or iPod on me, I turned around to people-watch.
Two women got on behind me, and the smaller of the two grabbed the center pole. For a split fraction of a second, her hand grazed that of a gentleman already holding on to said pole. She immediately moved her hand and apologized, but it was TOO LATE.
The guy began grumbling and slurring in what I’ve come to recognize as the “Don’t-Fuck-With-Me-Crazy-Man” voice, and thus, I was immediately thrust into the eternal dilemma of the subway fight. I obviously couldn’t look away, but if I stared, the odds of Crazy Subway Man catching my eye and suddenly deciding I’d done something inexcusable would increase. The solution? Keep everything in my peripheral and look for split seconds, then away. Like the sun. Or cleavage, if you want to go the Seinfeld route.
Anyways, Crazy Subway Man (CSM from here on out), was pissed, but in this lazy, rotgut-impaired way that makes everything a little blurrier and slower, yet somehow enhances the threat of imminent violence. He told the one girl that he was “not in the mood” and “not to test him” and that he “likes pussy too”. Eventually I deduced that he had identified this girl and her friend as a lesbian couple, which turned out to be accurate. Who knew heroin made you prescient in regards to sexual orientation?
The girl, who seemed more bemused than angry about the whole thing basically told him what everybody in the car who saw the whole thing already knew: it was an accident, sorry, etc. He wasn’t having it, and after a while her girlfriend (apparently), who is nearly as tall as I am, caught wind of what was going on and started asking the guy what his problem was.
It’s at this point that CSM began to threaten the two women, albeit subtly, with physical violence. Something along the lines of “I’ll show you rather than tell you”, implying that he was about to lay hands on them. At this point I was struck with a dilemma:
Should I follow my good ol’, Texan-mother-infused instincts and immediately step in on behalf of these women, or should I, being in New York, do as New Yorkers do, and mind my own business? They seemed to be handling it fine themselves, and I didn’t want to be the asshole “sexist without thinking he’s a sexist” guy who stepped in to save the supposed damsels in distress who can handle their own shit, thank you very much.
I opted to mind my own business. Looking around the car, it seemed like a lot of other young men on board were wrestling with the same thing. Luckily, nothing came of it. Following the universal law of drunken shit-talking, the more garbage this guy spewed the less likely he was to actually lift a finger. The tall half of the couple pulled her girlfriend off at the next stop, and CSM departed a few stops later.
I relayed this story to Ben Seligson, and his takeaway was “I have no idea what I would do if somebody started yelling at me on the subway”. The truth is, I don’t either. But sooner or later, it’s bound to happen, right?
New York: where the crazy people are bold because the police have better things to do than fuck with them.