Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Lord, Just Get Me Through the Day


You just can’t phase New Yorkers; their Somebody Else’s Problem mantra is too strong for even terrorists to punch through. Any oddity, sufficiently repeated, can become routine. Take my commute, amidst the pleas to help the homeless, the Mariachi men and the breakdancers:

3 train local coming inbound from central Brooklyn, the conductor wouldn’t open the doors at each stop until he had warned the straphangers not to enter his car but choose another. Those with headphones or resolutely irresponsive were soon met with a woman going through a rather violent episode, accosting and harassing them off her car while she methodically trashed it, to the bemused stares of onlookers smirking at the spectacle.

Not one to let crazies stop the system, tho, this continued stop by stop until we had reached Atlantic Avem whereupon two bored and distracted-looking officers cajoled her off the train as the conductor cited the ever-euphemistic chant that the “train was being held in the station for a police investigation.”

“So that’s what a ‘police investigation’ is,” says I.

“Who knew?” replies a man a dead ringer for of Black Eyed Peas. “It’s always causing delays right about now.” For good measure, the next three stops were skipped – to keep on time, of course.

The sixth car on the uptown A train had a small blue Jansport bag, unowned as it were and unclaimed, flanked by two hoods – a white guy with spiky hair and black t-shirt and a large, rotund Latino guy – traded jokes about what could be in it – a bomb? Drugs? Drug money? – until the white guy promised upon leaving the train at 34th to notify the conductor; after all, If You See Something, Say Something. Just not before your stop.

The conductor came over and the latino guy, now cracking jokes with the midwestern tourists sitting next to him, moved to hand the bag to her. “I don’t want that shit!” she exclaimed, before barking into her comm unit for cops to remove the bag. None immediately forthcoming, she returned to her cab and the train doors closed. The latino guy shrugged. His civic duty was done! And now they got his fingerprints all over it. Watch it be drugs; just watch.

The tourists got off at 42nd, thanking our intrepid citizen, and ever more straphangers got on. One woman spied the empty seat and suggested to us onlookers that, bomb threat notwithstanding, ain’t nothing in that bag more important than a seat during rush hour or more dangerous than what’s been sitting in that seat (or touching the poles) all day. We concurred. She stuffed the bag under the seat.

At 59th a cop came on to collect the bag, duly handed over by the Latino guy. He looked at it. Spoke into his comm unit, “children’s bag.” Left with the bag. If it was a bomb, it’d have had the opportunity to detonate in at least three major transfer stops. But who’s counting?


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