Thursday, February 10, 2011

I walked between the subway cars while the train was moving

Never Done: Walked from subway car to another subway car while the train was moving

Almost all the cars were fairly empty, so I just got on the car that arrived closest to where I was standing. I noticed the yukky smell right away, but thought it was just the smell of winter. But then as I went to choose my seat, I realized it was a particularly yukky smell, and it was probably the smell of someone's poo, although there was no-one near me who seemed very pooey. I walked to the other end of the car, and that's where I saw the pooey person -- a middle aged man, who couldn't stop scratching himself. I know that can be a sign of crack addiction, but I don't know what else it could be a sign of -- like potentially a mental illness?

So what do you do when you don't want to smell poo, but you also don't want to be another person who ignores the drug addicted and/or mentally ill people in our midst? I guess it's one thing if the person is asking for some help. This person wasn't, and he was big, and he wasn't completely in control of himself, and he smelled like poo. I decided to go to the next car. But I didn't feel 100% great about it. It certainly took care of my needs, but I don't think it did anything to try to understand his burden.

I was going to wait til the next stop, and then just go out and go back in. But I recognized the Never Done opportunity of walking between cars while the train was still moving -- the same thing the mechanized voices tell us not to do. It turns out to be incredibly easy and not even a little bit freaky -- there's a big platform to stand on, and it's easy to open the doors. It's not that I thought it was going to be so hard; it's just that when you've never done something, you don't know.

So the next car smelled fine, and I sat down and took out my book (The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman) and I started to read. One stop, two stops, and suddenly things started to smell a little pooey again. I looked up and I looked around, and there was the scratching man, sitting in the same place on this car as he was sitting on the other car. Hmmm, so sometimes the burdens of others follow you around to remind you you didn't deal with them. Now, his out-of-control scratching was releasing coins from his pockets, which were falling on the floor. My stop was coming right up, and so I decided to do one little thing. As I went to the door, I picked up his coins and I handed them to him, and I got off the train. It was a tiny thing, but it was a connection.

1 comment:

  1. Brava for your commitment to be compassionate. And, this "never done" is proof positive that you didn't grow up in NY. Going between the cars was just a way of life...and I don't remember any instructions not to years ago. Then again, all public address systems sounded like Donald Duck sneezing through a static-filled megaphone, so it may have always been a rule.