I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus and thought I’d finally write a post about riding the subway because it’s something I do everyday and some of the things I see never seem to amaze me (or make me want to run away in fear). In this post I’m going to describe some of the funniest and most unforgettable moments I’ve had while riding the subway in my almost two years in the city.
If these occurrences happen to be a bit embellished, so be it. You’ll never know the truth anyway. So without further adieu, here is my life underground summed up in just over 1000 words.
The “Show Time” Dancing Guys
For those living in the city, you already know what I’m talking about. Groups of people, usually teens, ride some of the longest subway stops back and forth for hours dancing (on poles) and sometimes doing tricks with baseball caps to make money. They are easy for a seasoned subway rider to spot, typically the kid carrying the old school 90’s boom box is a dead giveaway. They are also notorious for exclaiming, “Show time ladies and gentlemen!” before performing. These guys are actually pretty entertaining, flying around the car like a perfect mix between a monkey and a stripper. They do flips, jump from pole to pole without touching the ground and even entice the occasional fist bump from riders. The tourists always think this is the coolest thing ever, while everyone else who sees them weekly is thinking, “If you kick me in the head, I swear to God shit is going down on this train.” I’ve learned to be pretty good at ignoring them and have also learned their schedules to a T so I can avoid certain trains if I need to. If you’re intrigued to see these individuals in person, feel free to jump on the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn or other various stops on the 4, 5 and Q trains.
No Shame Pissing Homeless Guys
Sometimes you wonder why New York always smells like piss, then you realize there are no public bathrooms, inevitably making the streets and subways a giant urinal. For the most part, people are pretty discreet when trying to urinate in public, but I’ve seen a number of homeless guys in the subway with absolutely no shame. While carefully placing his bottle of vodka down, I saw one guy drop his drawers right in the middle of a crowded platform. A few other times I’ve seen a more respectable gentleman pee on the wall, but while still taking time to harass people mid stream with choice words. As a disclaimer, I’m not trying to pick on the homeless people.
This Little Light of Mine
While riding the 1 train near West Village, as I used to do for work every morning, I would sometimes get my morning dose of gospel music courtesy of a quartet of gentleman. It wouldn’t happen very frequently, (like a Browns win on Sunday, except we’ve already got a win this year…boom!) but it was entertaining none the less. When it happened it was like you could hear them coming. A whisper, growing louder and louder until it sounded like you were in the middle of a baptist church in the south. Once these guys got up to full volume, the energy on the train would usually swing from glum to somewhat cheerful (and on a train in the morning before work, that’s saying something). Sometimes people would even sing along. I have to admit, these guys are one of the few groups of train performers I can stand.
Incense Man Between 6th and 7th
When traveling from Brooklyn to West Village you have to transfer from the L train, which cuts east and west to the 1 train, that runs north and south. To do this, you must walk a few blocks under the street in a tunnel, which I have pleasantly nicknamed “the shit tunnel.” Although I’ve named this tunnel for obvious reasons (see #2) there is one man there everyday that makes it a little bit better. Like a well oiled machine, a middle aged man stands in the tunnel every morning and afternoon selling comic books and incense. And although I’m pretty sure the comic books are counterfeit, he makes up for it by burning incense samples and making the tunnel smell like slightly less of a high school football locker room. So for that Incense Man, I solute you.
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
One gentleman makes my work commute interesting a few days a week, to say the least. For those of you who don’t know, the Union Square subway stop on 14th Street is typically filled with performers of all types. From singers and dancers to tarot card readers and jugglers, you never really know what to expect. Then, there’s “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching Guy.” Typically sporting a thong and some other combination of leather garments, this guy blares the likes of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” while frolicking around, sometimes even delighting the large crowd that gathers with raunchy pelvis gyrations, straight out of Miley Cyrus’s playbook. To be honest, he’s kind of fun to watch and baits tourists in like he’s the top wrangler in the Bassmaster series. Next time I cross paths with this fella, I’ll be sure to share it on Snapchat (brock0lee is my name if you’re wondering).
J Train Party
For the most part, when weird things happen on the train, I don’t really think much of them. But one night on the J Train in Brooklyn I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable. I forget exactly what I was doing in Manhattan on a weeknight, but I found myself riding the J Train home at about one in the morning. The train was mostly empty as it made its way across the Williamsburg Bridge, but once we got to the first stop in Brooklyn, the party (as I call it) started. Four men got on the train and immediately starting drinking out of bottles covered by brown paper bags and playing music on a small stereo. At that point I was like, “OK this is pretty normal,” but at every train stop it seemed like more began to happen. First they were smoking cigarettes (which made the car smell terrible). Then came the weed. And finally something white in rock form (I’m going to go out on a limb and say crack). Once this happened and the train was fully engulfed in smoke, the men started arguing loudly with one another to the point where I thought a fight was going to break out. When I finally got to my train stop, I smelled like I had been out partying with Cheech and Chong. Thankfully nobody had gotten into a fight by that point, although I don’t know how long that lasted once I got off. Now, I’ve been to my fair share of parties and have seen a lot of crazy things, but this was by far one party I did not want to be a part of.
Sports Card Guy
Another recognizable character on the L Train is “Sports Card Guy.” Like the name dictates, this man walks from car to car trying to sell sports cards for money. But what makes me laugh about this guy is how he calls out the people he knows are trying to avoid him (snooty people from Williamsburg are his favorite targets). While making his rounds down the train car, he sleekly passes by the folks trying to ignore him, but when they least expect it, he snaps his head around and asks, “Anybody home?” I’ve never actually bought a sports card from this guy, but I think I owe him a few bucks for the enjoyment I get watching some entitled yuppy spill their Starbucks.
So as you can see, there are definitely some characters riding the subways of New York. Some are better than others, but together they all make up what makes NYC transit unique. The folks I’ve outlined above just scratch the surface of some of the interesting people you can find on the subway, but until next time that’s all I’ve got.
For my next post, I think I’ll give a play by play of a night out in Manhattan. I hope you’re ready for that. It could get dicey.