Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why You Should Take the Train

Like a sock in the eye, the piss stink.  The source was immediately evident: homeless guy, sleeping, his body taking up the entire row of seats but no one really wanted to sit next to him anyway.  I moved to the other side of the train car.  A woman next to me started spraying her wrist with cheap perfume in an effort to mask the odor, but as anyone could have told her, the new stink of her perfume only mixed with the piss smell creating a full assault on the senses.  After three sprays, someone asked her to stop.  The woman did not take it well. 

Two stops into my commute, I heard a man talking to himself. It started as muttering but picked up between Chicago Ave. and Clark and Division.  By the time the subway turned into the El, he was screaming, laughing, raving.  His laughter sounded like how I used to imagine the Joker sounding when I read Batman comics as a kid, only more insane, like the Joker’s laugh while peaking on LSD and getting blown by Harley Quinn.  His gibberish was fairly unintelligible, though I managed to make out: “I like to eat the diarrhea!  Onions!  Garlic!  Taffy apple and farts!”  I’m 100% serious.  A few of his more bizarre vocal effects resembled the Boredoms records I loved in the ‘90s.  He gave everyone who walked past the finger, shaking his head back and forth and laughing that nightmare laugh. 

The woman next to me, still reeking of shitty perfume, started to mumble, “This sucks” and then “God as my witness…” I couldn't see any difference between her and the ranting loon.  Not true: I preferred the loon’s version of talking to himself.  It was fairly original, at least.  

The train reached Berwyn and the drunk came aboard.  He yelled at the sleeping homeless man, “Get up, buddy, you stink!” then walked to the other end (even booze couldn’t dull his senses that much).  The loon screamed, “SUCKADICK! SUCKADICK! SUCKADICK!”  The drunk replied: “Shit, a stinker and a fucking nut!”  I was more afraid of the drunk.  He looked angry.  And—far be it from me to judge—but what the hell was he doing getting that drunk at 4:00 PM? 

And you know what—it wasn’t the sleeping dude with the piss pants or the loon or the drunk that bugged me most.  It was the perfume sprayer and the few people who decided to commiserate with her: the suit wearing prick who said something like, “Why not go to a park and piss yourself.  Why did he have to board a train where people are trying to get home?” or the weird lady with the flying kitten spandex pants who kept rolling her eyes, or the college girls who giggled the entire time.  Fuck them.  At least the drunk knows he’s a drunk and the homeless guy… what choice does he have?  Guy’s gotta sleep somewhere.  Why not the train?  These oddballs are touched, to put it mildly.  They live lives we can’t possibly imagine.  They offend, sure.  They stink, they’re weird, and they challenge our fragile idea of normalcy.  But they’re interesting.  I wouldn’t want to spend any more time with them than I have to, but that goes for all the assholes on that train today.  And me?  Why the hell do I get to pass judgment?  I can be just as obnoxious as the next guy.  Just because I manage not to piss myself or scream at strangers doesn’t make me any better (well, not much) than anyone else on that train.  Who knows, any of us seemingly normal folks could someday be that weirdo on the train.

And that’s why you should always take public transportation: to remember that you are a few small tragedies away from being as crazy as the next asshole.