Thursday, May 12, 2005

"Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right"

It’s amazing how much New Yorkers give up when it comes to personal space. I’m not talking about our apartments. That’s for another day. I’m talking about the lack of personal space when on mass transit. It’s remarkable how we cope with this invasion. Most of us lose ourselves in a book or a newspaper. We create a wall of sorts against the marauders. With our view obstructed by our reading material and our ears plugged into our iPods, we try to forget that a 5’11" man is hovering over us with stains under his arm that loom closer and closer as the train jerks down its predefined path.

Tuesday evening, I got assaulted by a gut. Yes, a gut. This gut wasn’t like any other gut. Imagine Tony Soprano’s gut and Big Pussy’s gut. Put them both together and you might get what this guy had. I was on my way home from the Mariners at Yankees game. BTW, I’m liking this new pitcher, Wang. It’s time we’ve got some young blood back in the team. Anyone who has gone to a Yankees game and taken mass transit will attest to the MTA’s refusal to leave the station without packing people like sardines into each metal car.

Unfortunately, I found a seat and sat. It was at the end of the bench so I was right by the doors. This was a wrong move on my part. Just as I sat down, a drove of fans descended the staircase and made their way into the car. A pudgy older gentleman made his way to stand in front of me. His gut was honed to perfection by nightly sessions at his favorite pub. Although his gut bulged into my space, it was manageable. I sat there quietly staring at my phone anxiously waiting for the doors to close. “Buddy, right here!” said Mr. Beer Gut. I turned to my left to meet a gut of all guts hanging over the railing and practically touching my tiny nose. Like a total eclipse I was thrown into darkness under the shade of a giant gut. He was wearing a white shirt and I can tell you that the shirt was stretched to maximum capacity. He was a big and tall dude. If he said his name was Mongo, I’d believe him. We were so close I could have used his gut as a pillow. So I immediately turned my head back to the front and I did something I never thought I’d do on a train home from a Yankees game, I began to pray. Honestly, I was scared. “Stuck in the middle with you” played in my head and I envisioned these two gut guys dancing like Michael Madsen. The kid next to me looked at me and tried to scoot over to the right to help me out but it was useless.

Ten minutes at the station and were still not moving. I’d reach for my PDA to read the news but I barely had room to lift my arm up to check the time. So I sat there staring at my lap and prayed. The conductor finally closed the doors and the train jerked forward. It was the longest ride of my life. Longer than the time the train stopped in between stops for 20 minutes and I was stuck with a smelly homeless guy in the same car. At one point the bigger of the two fell forward and I thought I was a goner.

Why didn’t I say anything? Lrudlrick said I should have taken a pen out and poked the bellies back a few inches. I suppose I was intimidated. I was literally sandwiched between two men who could have slammed me into their bellies and no one in the train would have noticed injured me until the train made it back to the depot.

Now, I’m a polite person on the train. I don’t eat on the train. I don’t take two seats. I stow my baggage away or place it on my lap. I even get up when I see a pregnant woman or an elderly person. I don’t think it’s necessary for a person to hover over me and intimidate me with their belly.