Despite numerous posted warnings, I maintain a bad habit of standing too close to the subway tracks. And yet I'm reasonably certain I will not meet my end this way as I have developed a much worse habit of engaging in vigilante (mostly polite, but vigilante nonetheless) subway etiquette enforcement. Considering the level of psychopathy developed by people on the subway who are otherwise normal when they're terranean (that isn't a word), one of these days, one of them will kill me. And it will be entirely worth it.
To the half-crunchy, half-yuppie mother who has allowed her three-year-old, presumably named Silas or Henry, spread out across 2.5 seats for a rush hour nap, I will absolutely suggest rousing him to make room for the elderly, the visibly impregnated, or for the generally downtrodden and hard-working commuters of New York City. I'm doing her a favor really, if she wants Silas to live up to his literary name, he should be at home learning a noble craft like weaving, not luxuriating on mass transit. Mother Bear does as is suggested, but with an unmistakeable rage in her eye.
This past winter, another subway terror nearly shut down the plans of a gaggle of vibrant youth who were about to impress the subway car with a dance routine that displayed great depth perception and tremendous upper body strength. If memory serves, it was when Gangnam Style was all the rage. Some killjoy from continental Europe (as the killjoys so often are), refused to get out of the way that these kids might earn a few dollars and delight a few awe-struck children that were correctly taking up only one seat. As he obstinately refused the polite suggestion of the teens, I interjected loudly, "Sir, it's customary here to get out of the way for this." He obliged sheepishly. It was one of the most patriotic moments of my life. But things could have easily gone a more sinister direction.
On a recent commute, a notorious member of the pole-leaners gang came across my path. These (usually) male commuters, who I must assume are deranged from the advanced stages of syphilis as there is no other explanation for this kind of behavior, find it entirely acceptable to lean against a pole that was designed to accommodate a minimum of four peoples' hands so that commuters might not tumble about, crashing into their weary fellow travelers. This particular fellow had the audacity, NAY, chutzpah to demand in a growl that the man who had squeezed his hand onto the pole remove it so that he might continue his tyrannical reign. The man, being of weak character and possessing low levels of intestinal fortitude, slunk away in submission.
As an act of foolish rebellion, I shoved my hand behind him to grasp the pole. He turned halfway round, clearly disgruntled that a Lady with a capital "L" had invaded his territory but unwilling to be as openly discourteous as he had the been to the spineless character we met in the preceding paragraph. In a clever attempt to crush my spirit, he leaned hard back into the pole, hurting my delicate Lady hand. Instead of retreating, I held fast. He glared at me. I glared back. He pushed in harder. I grasped the pole more tightly. An impromptu showdown had begun.
Though it felt like several minutes had passed, it was probably less than one when a wave of courage came over me. When we make eye contact again, I declared "This doesn't belong to you." I should mention at this point that this outlaw and madman was at least 12 inches taller than me and likely more had I not been wearing heels. But what the heels gave me in height they robbed of me in balance and potential for a speedy getaway should the need arise. He contemplated murder for a moment, it was quite clear. It would have been a noble death. But the man relented, making room for more riders to take hold of the pole. He slunk away at the High Street stop and has presumably assumed his old habits. Despite the American heritage of this villain, I felt vaguely patriotic after this victory too. I was the hero Gotham had been praying for.
Will I be so lucky next time? Should I stop this this behavior and submit to long life? The right answers elude me. Tomorrow is Monday. There is still much work to be done.