Saturday, August 23, 2008

Snakes on a Train

It's Sunday afternoon and I am on the 2-3 with my friend Emellia going from brunch in the Village to church uptown.  We fail to remember that it is the Dominican pride parade day, so we are not prepared for what meets us in midtown.  At first we don't connect the dots, because a crowded subway, especially on the 2-3, is not unusual.  It is Manhattan after all.  But as we sit at the 50th street station waiting for the doors to close as people cram in, we start getting a little annoyed.  Because for a good long while the train just sits there.  And then all of a sudden a woman screams, "GET OFF THE TRAIN. NOW!"  I can't see the woman, but 3 little white kids scurry out of their seats and they all push through the people to get off the train.  I'm not sure if the woman didn't like all the people around her or what, but it just seems odd.  Whatever.  Tourists are weird.  A few more minutes pass by just sitting there, and then three police officers come to the door and one says, "You need to get off the train with that thing.  RIGHT.  NOW."  Now I'm really confused, because I can't see who they're talking to or what's going on, and I have no clue what these dudes could POSSIBLY have that would give police reason to kick them off the train.

Then a man near me says, "Oh wow... they have a snake."  A snake? On the train? Seriously? Now I'm really curious and just want to catch a glimpse of this thing.  Is it big?  Is it in a cage? And why in the world would they bring it ON THE SUBWAY? Of all the wacky things I see in New York, I have never seen someone with a snake on the train.  And I'm suddenly understanding why the lady and her kids got off the train.  So the police escort the men and their snake off the train, and we are able to go on our merry way.  Which becomes less merry as we get to Columbus Circle.  That's where the real fun began.

As we pull into Columbus Circle you can see people 6-deep lining the subway platform, mostly from the parade.  Mostly drunk.  Mostly loud.  They are banging on the outside of the subway cars, banging on the doors, blowing lifeguard whistles, banging sticks or canes against walls and the train.  It's basically insanity.  And they all want on our train.  Drunken herd mentality is ruling the hour and people are convinced they too can fit if they push the mass of bodies already on the train JUST A LITTLE HARDER.  Guys are blowing their whistles on the train, which, let me tell you, is not altogether a pleasant sound.  People are banging the roof of the train, chanting, pushing, yelling, and generally sucking at life.  And clearly they a) don't care that they are holding up thousands of other people trying to get to their destinations and b) don't understand that THEY won't get anywhere if the doors are not able to shut because their bodies are blocking the way.  Sometimes I am baffled by the stupidity and selfishness of my fellow human beings.  

So Emellia and I continue chatting, since we are thankfully at the center of the train, at the furtherest point from the doors.  And about 10 minutes later the doors are finally able to shut and we go on our not-so-merry-for-anyone-other-than-the-Dominicans way.  Whistle blowing, ceiling pounding, and Spanish chanting continue all about us, and we are glad we only have three more stops.  But we do have a lengthy conversation contemplating our exit strategy, given our central location.  And it's not like any of them are getting off in the three stops between Columbus Circle and church, because the most heavily Dominican neighborhood is Washington Heights (of In The Heights musical fame), waaaay uptown.  Sweet.  

In any event, there is not great dramatic end to the story, since we end up making it to our stop and make it to church on time, since we thankfully allotted more than enough time to get there (a rarity in New York).  But I will say that it was one of my more memorable (read: outrageous) subway rides of my time in New York.  And because the first thing that popped into my mind was, "Snakes on a Train would make a great blog title," I decided to share.  It's funny though, because invariably when you share a subway episode with a fellow New Yorker, thinking it's the most ridiculous/outrageous/crazy happening ever, they will pipe up with an even more ridiculous/outrageous/crazy story.  So feel free to share YOUR best subway/public transportation story.  Maybe we could all write a book about it.  Oh wait...

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