Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Notable Commuters: Weird Boots Guy

Fig. 1. Weird Boots
It’s been a while since I’ve just written a plain old observation. That, uh, is the name of the blog after all. And what better place to observe strange and fascinating creatures but within the MTA train system. As a creature of habit, I usually sit in the same train car every day. Unfortunately, so does a group of loud, obnoxious old men playing cards on what appears to be a pizza box. The first time I saw it, I was perplexed by how their group defied all unspoken rules of train etiquette. Whereas normally conversations or cell phone calls get you a look of death from other zombie commuters, these men shout, cheer and converse as if throwing back beers in a bar. Amid the noise of their gravelly smokers’ voices is the fluttery flipping of a deck of cards, conjuring images of leaves getting stuck in a bicycle spoke. Or similar. Not a card player myself (unless you count the drinking game “Asshole”), I have no idea what it is that has them so entranced. But I do hear them shouting things like “29? Is it 29? Whattawe got, 45 to 92?” What does it mean, readers? Anyone? Anyone?

This enigma aside, there is one passenger who gets on the train who cannot escape anyone’s attention. He is older, probably somewhere between, say 55 and 100. His tall, burly, Paul Bunyan physique is accented by a fluffy gray beard, a half smoked cigar hanging out of his mouth that he CHEWS all the way to the city, and—the icing on the cake—tall, knee-high funky black boots (see Fig. 1). The boots are what catch my attention every single day. If you only focused on them, you’d think (Punk Rocker? Goth? Motorcycle Mamma? Oktoberfest Partaker? Sadomasochist? Shit Shoveller?) until you look up and see that they are attached to Santa Claus with a bad cigar habit.

Weird Boots gets on the same car as me and immediately gravitates towards the card players like a fly to feces. He leans on the back of the six-seater they occupy and bends down, flagrantly invading their personal space. At first I thought he was part of the group—the silent observer, who, for lack of a seat, participates from above. But over the weeks, I’ve noticed he’s not. He is just a random guy, with weird boots, resting his cigar on the island pattern bald guy dealing the cards, watching every move they make like Big Brother watches all of us. When the train pulls in, he immediately exits without so much as a goodbye. The group in turn never greets his omnipresence with hello, goodbye, or what the feck are you looking at?!

Who is he readers? Only time will tell. For now I will continue to silently observe him as he silently observes them, while snapping secret photos of his boots (can I get a pair somewhere?) as I pretend to text my BFF in Spain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I’ve been trying so hard not to let little things get to me. My therapist (look, everyone in New York has one) says that when annoying people bump into me, play loud music that blares out of their headphones, or just simply exist I should say to myself “I allow these people to inconvenience me” or “I will not let these [a-holes] change my day.” Apparently I'm some kind of perfectionist and hold people to high standards—resulting in continuous disappointment in others. I didn’t really need to pay $150 a session to figure out that peeps irritate me—bad! But though I’ve been doing better, it’s rather hard to keep a smile on one’s face when one has to ride the shittiest and most frustrating elevator that ever existed to work every morning.

I work on the 19th of 20 floors, and there are many offices and people in my building, with six inefficient elevators to cart us to our respective places of work. While some buildings generously program their elevators to stop on the lower floors on one side, and the upper levels on the other, ours does not. The result: sheer vexation when you get crammed into the small space with 10 other people and the elevator stops on floor 2. Really? You couldn’t walk up one flight of stairs?

These antiquated machines are also slow, and when I walk into the building there's always an enormous line of people waiting to get on. There are so many offenders, I don’t even know where to begin: The “I’m just going to ignore the line and waltz up to the front because I’m more important than you” rider, the “I have a double-barrel stroller with children big enough to walk” rider, the “there are already 15 people in here, three of whom are morbidly obese, but I am going to get in anyway and invade your personal space and/or breathe on you” rider, the “I’m the lazy mailman who will stop on every floor, making you use your entire lunch break on the elevator” rider, the “I’m going to pass noxious wind and you’ll never guess which of us it is” rider…and the list goes on.

Today I got on and practiced my mantra, while smiling (grimacing) at my fellow riders, and pressed floor 19. The elevator stopped at floor 2 while everyone sighed with undisguised angst as a young, able-bodied passenger got off (note: next time at least fake a limp). It proceeded to stop on every other floor while my blood pressure creeped up faster than the elevator ever would. Finally, when it stopped at 18 and I only had one more floor to go, I sighed in relief. Until it started to plummet down.

“WTF! NOOO!” I shouted to the bare walls. It stopped on 15. Two men walked in. “Up or down!” I barked rabidly. “Down,” they said. I exited the elevator huffing, puffing and swearing while one of the men said “looks like it’s not her day.” ARGHHH.

On floor 15 I waited 10 minutes for another "up" elevator to no avail. Finally I decided to go back down and start all over. The elevator stopped on floor 6. The doors remained closed. I began to sweat. And still no movement. Panic disorder activated, I was just about to push the emergency button and scream that I was two seconds away from a shit storm, when it began to descend. Back on floor 1, I realized it had now been 20 minutes since I'd arrived to work, and was still not in my office. The cycle repeated itself as the elevator once again stopped on floor 2 to let a lazy passenger out. This time I got off at number 20, the main lobby of my office, and walked down to 19.

I ask, readers, would you be able to maintain calm after this palaver? As I sat down, shaking and twitching, my coworkers started to complain about the fact that the elevator has now been programmed to not stop on my floor due to recent thefts. So now everyone has to go to the main reception area one floor up. Feeling an explosion brewing at the inhumanity of not having received any warning of this from "the man," I was just about to call the CEO (in other words, stew silently) when there in my inbox I saw a vague message about security updates. Sure enough, there was the info I'd chosen to ignore the day before. Guess this time, it was my bad.