ALEVE, Urban Intensity and Anger

| February 18, 2011 | Comments (2)


Yesterday was not a good day.  I awoke creaky and aching. My decision to go on the wagon with Aleve, the pain-killer anti-inflamatory medication,  was taking its toll. I could hardly walk.

Everything in life is a trade-off, isn’t it? Take massive doses of Aleve and lose the pain in your  joints; then your kidneys and liver suffer. Choices, choices.

Hobbling to the subway, I meet my neighbor, Pedro, a kindly, 80-ish Puerto Rican who loves animals and decorates his  front yard evergreen shrubs with plastic apples and oranges.  He is downcast too.  His wife, Maria, has just been flown to a medical facility in Virginia for stroke rehab. The flight in a small plane with a medical attendant accompanying her,  cost $4,000. Now their grandson, who was supposed to be taking care of her down there, is saying she is senile and that they should sell all their property and put the proceeds in his name. I had just seen Maria a couple of days ago as she was leaving for the airport and she is a senile as a wily fox. I am relieved when Pedro agrees with my observation that she should be brought back home immediately. We part, Pedro his shaking his head, repeating over and over, “Another $4,000….”

Settling into a seat on the subway, I am relieved that, crowded as the car is, there are none of the usual annoyances to push my irritation buttons – no agressive,  flea-infested panhandlers, an absence of screaming teens spouting obscenities; it was going to be an uneventful 15-minute ride to Grand Central Station.

Not in the mood to read, I settle into my favorite passtime of subway-watching, scanning the faces of the passengers in what I hope is  a subtle, non-intrusive manner. It is a technique I had picked up in Java, in Indonesia, where you point your face one way, then beam your eyes in the opposite direction  gazing at the targetted object of interest. If you get caught, if the person you are staring at locks eyes with you and “catches” you at your game,  you  appear cross-eyed and deranged, so no offense is incurred; you are simply written off as another subway weirdo kook.

 The train hits 86th Street and my black – latino car is suddenly invaded by a rush of Brooks Brothers suits and sharp-edged leather briefcases borne by Wall Street Journal-toting pale faces. How starkly different New York City is from subway stop to subway stop. In the South Bronx, my Anglo-Saxon visage is almost as rare as the extinct Dodo Bird, but minutes away on the East Side of Manhattan, my face is as common as a kitchen cockroach.

A 20-ish hedge fund type positions himself in front of me, buff enough so he doesn’t need to hold on to anything for balance and support. This dude must be hot stuff on the slopes at Aspen.  He opens his newspaper and its fold grazes the bridge of my nose. Bronx-style I slap the paper with the back of my hand telling him to give me my space. He looks at me and backs off without saying anything. This ride is turning out to be more ennervating that I had expected. My bones and joints cry out in pain.

At 77th Street a single passenger enters the car and I smell trouble from the get-go. An elderly prune-faced white women, her dress is  expensive and under-stated.  She eyes the narrow slice of space between me and a young latino, probably a busboy on his way to work, and with an imperious sweep of her hand, commands him to move over. Taken aback, he jumps up and gives her his seat. You can tell Miss Marple has  a hefty chunk of change in her Schwab account that she dangles to keep everybody  in her family  tap-dancing and under control: ” Am I in the will?”  This old biddy is used to calling the shots. Now she has business-class seating, but she’s not content. Turning a jaundiced jowl towards me she barks, “And you, move over too!” I am positioned at the end of the seat next to a metal barrier. What am I to do? Defy the laws of physics and melt into the steel bars next to me to accede to her command? 

Suddenly I snap and snarl at her, “You’re taking over the whole car, aren’t you? Are you bossy or what? ” A stream of expletives burst from her finishing school mouth, then she settles into a broken 45-RPM staccato of  “You’re really stupid!” She repeats and repeats it. Machine Gun Mama.

I think of choice ripostes for this harridan, but I bite my tongue and mutter  to myself:  WHY did you open your mouth?

Smart people tell us  scientific tests show when too many happy little fish are put into one tank the over-crowding causes them to turn into ruthless killers.

I can think of more threatening subway scenarios than this mano a mano with Miss Blue Hair, but I’ve got some major decisions to make: either go back to being an Aleve junkie or stay home and watch TV. Otherwise, mouthing-off,  I might “make somebody’s day” !

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Comments (2)

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  1. raja says:

    You shouldnt bite your tongue, just blow your gas from you ass, jejejeje…

  2. Roger Cranse says:

    I’m grateful to see, after a long absence, the charming and useful word “harridan.” Thank you, Sam! As for riding the subway, it’s also been years. I believe when I was a kid going over from NJ to Eddie Congdon’s (?) jazz club a subway token was 15 cents. (Also just noticed my computer keyboard doesn’t have the cent sign like my old typewriter.) For the creaks I generally take aspirin; for running soreness, the miracle Motrin. RC

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