Subway Anecdotes, Vol. 2

The waiting platform is unusually muggy and pungent. The sign says the next train is coming in three minutes. While leaning against a column, reading Melmoth The Wanderer, everyone passing by is a pair of feet in my periphery. Far off, further down the platform, a personal speaker is blaring an electronic hi-hat pattern that appears to go on forever.

One of the sets of feet walking by suddenly approaches me. Before I can look up, a pile of cash is placed on top of my book’s open pages. It is a sizeable stack, made at least in part out of 20’s. I look up, and a man grins.

“There you go,” he says.

While waiting for the prank show crew to come out, I say: “no, thanks.”

Before I’m finished saying my quick refusal, he has already taken the money back and is walking away. As he does, he says “look at this kid. I’m just trying to give him two hundred dollars. Who wouldn’t want that?”

He goes onto the escalator, now saying “he doesn’t want two hundred dollars. How stupid is that? I put it right there. He didn’t take it. I put it right there…”

At this point, he has passed out of my earshot. Before returning to my book, I glance back up at the sign, which says the train is due in one minute.

Back to reading, I am only a couple of sentences in when I hear a general outcry. I look up, and people are gesturing at the sign, which now says the train is coming in 17 minutes. People are asking the person right next to them, sometimes in unison, “what happened to it?” Others take it in more of a chagrined stride: “they’re always like this. Always breaking down.” Others begin to pace, running their fingers through their hair over and over again. Some complain about being late, others complain about being tired, I’m complaining to myself that I don’t have my headphones to pass the time quicker.

The general commotion dies down into learned helplessness as we all slouch back to where we were waiting before, and where we will continue to wait. Our collective posture has now worsened, and other people come down onto the platform, notice how long the wait is for the train, and become dejected themselves. We welcome them into the fold.

10 minutes pass. Inexplicably, while the sign still says the train will arrive in seven minutes, it arrives anyway. There is some audible surprise, and a loud “they don’t know what the hell is going on today.” We all get on, a little bemused. Saving the seven minutes we had thought we lost improves our mood, and our posture regains some vitality. Until, that is, the train stops between two stops, and the operator says they are waiting for something to clear at the next stop ahead.