I think it’s kind of funny how the more you’re forced to come in contact with strangers, the more likely you are to have strong emotions toward them.
If, for example, I only had to deal with obnoxious fellow commuters once a week or so, I could probably laugh off their antics without experiencing any feeling other than a mild indifference.
When it’s a day-to-day thing, you kind of have to be more involved, lest you run the risk of being indifferent all the time. And therefore a robot. Just sayin.
Obviously I’m leading up to an anecdote.
So today I got to leave work at three. Yay! Apparently this is a common occupance, because the subway and train home were both pretty full.
Now, we’re going home about two hours early, so technically there should be no rush. Even if it take half an hour to get to the train, you’re still getting home early. But for whatever reason, people become animals when you delay their getting home early for even a few minutes.
Now, on one level, I get it. I too feel the mounting excitement for the three-day weekend. I too spend most of my day ready to head home again. I have a long commute home; I get the joy of every second you spend already at home and not on your way there.
But let’s get one thing straight: As much as I whine and moan and berate to you guys on this blog, I am not an obnoxious commuter. I keep my issues to myself until I can expel them like a human being. With my words. On the Internet. The most I’ll do in the heat of the moment is sigh heavily and shift my weight impatiently. Because I know I’m not the only one in a rush, and throwing a quiet tantrum isn’t solving anything.
Which brings me to the crux of my anecdote.
To get to the subway, I have to descend a rather long staircase. I’m one of those people who takes the escalator, but walks down the steps to speed up the process. Today I was behind a girl who was a little slower than I would have liked, but she kept up a steady pace and didn’t randomly stop in front of me, so I didn’t mind too much. Besides, I was out TWO HOURS early. How much could you really complain?
Answer: Quite a bit.
I was vaguely aware of a man walking down the stairs right behind me. Aware because he was a bit too close, making loud, huffy breathing noises so I knew he was there and would be aware he was in a hurry. Also in a hurry and trapped behind the person in front of me, I ignored him. Because really, what did he expect me to do?
As we neared the bottom of the escalator, things escalated (no pun intended). The subway was at the platform, and we obviously had less than a minute to get to it. I think it’s important to point out here that the slow-but-steady girl was still in front of me on the last couple of stairs, meaning at this point I was still not in control of the pace of our descent.
This apparently did not deter our fat friend behind me (because he was fat…and sweating) because it was at this moment that he started snapping. His fingers. At me. In my ear.
If I hadn’t had but scant few seconds to get on board. I would have abruptly turned, given him my most withering stare, and been all, “Ex-cuse me?? You wanna try that again, dough boy?”
As it was, I threw an incredulous look over my should, ran around the slower girl, and was almost at the train doors when they started to close. I wasn’t going to make it.
It was at this moment that my opinions of the fat man were conflicted. Like a pudgy bat out of hell, he suddenly came careening around me and shoved a fleshy foot in the closing doors, forcing them to open and hurrying on board, allowing me to slip in discreetly behind him.
I quickly hurried to the other end of the car, but I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at my former nemesis. I had sworn to hate him forever, and yet there was no denying he had saved me (from having to wait three more minutes for the next train).
What startled me was how strong my emotions were, and how dynamic the shift. One second I was I was using the term “dough boy,” the next I wanted to give him a high five.
If this was a movie, it would be the scene where the villain’s ever-evil exterior cracks to reveal a sad, scared person the audience can relate to. In real life, it was the moment I realized that even impatient, rude jerks have a purpose.
Kind of warms your heart a little, don’t it?