Commuter Communication

I know a woman who blogs about her experiences on New York City trains. For non-New Yorkers, this probably sounds slightly stupid. But for all of us living here, it’s brilliant. If you are car-less like the majority of the city, the train is an extension of your living room, where you read, listen to music, watch videos (iPod Touch), send emails (Blackberrys.) For anyone with a 30+ minute work-commute, you can get some deep thought going and solve many of life’s predicaments while riding the MTA, the same as you would laying on your couch and staring at the ceiling. The only thing is, occasionally on the train, you can encounter a cast of personalities and unfathomable situations that could be inspired by any decent HBO series (hands down, the best characters ever.)

So in eight years of living in NYC, I’ve encountered the following (in no particular order and I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out):

*A gay (possibly homeless) Black teenager asking for money specifically and not food. Receiving neither, he sat on the floor and quipped (loudly), “who am I kidding? I would suck a dick for a bag of chips.”- A train (which by far has the most “characters”)

*A convenience store. I’ve bought batteries and DVDs and oils. Oh, and M&Ms from the kids who flat out tell you they’re not selling candy to raise money for a cause, that they want some spending change in their pocket and if they weren’t selling your chocolate on the train, they’d probably be robbing you. (Almost all of the kids selling candy say this. They have a memorized script.)

*A woman ranting about her man, who instead of using the money she gave him to get clothes, spent the $45 on a prostitute (this morning)- 3 train

*An impromptu concert. An entertainer got one playing Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” on the accordion. There was a guy in the same car who’d been strumming his guitar; he switched songs and joined in. Inspired by the two-man band, one of the guys I was with turned the empty seat beside him into a drum. I started singing the lyrics because it seemed like right thing to do. – N train

*A couple transporting a loveseat. They put it down and sat on it for the ride home. -3 train

*Multiple missionaries using the train and its captive audience to spread The Word. The most memorable incident was when this Black guy preached at a deafening roar for 20 minutes to a crowded Brooklyn train on the morning commute annoying everyone. This big White guy took it as his hero-mission to relieve suffering and tried to push the man off the train at which point a crowd of women began attacking him. He finally stopped and the preacher stayed on the train. He was re-inspired by the man’s “persecution” and deemed himself a martyr all the way to 59th street.

*A man who bent next to me (seated) in a near-empty car and spouted with venom just loud enough for me to hear how much he hated Black women and how we weren’t worth shit.

*A Black man ranting about how much he hated White devils. He pulled a mini-water gun from his pocket, aimed it at the temple of a seated White man, and sprayed him in the head.

*A hilarious, homeless comedian with an act about passengers invading his living room and leaving trash which is perfectly timed for the express ride from 34th to 14th street on the A train

*Sonny Payne- a homeless man who gave the same plea for cash every weekday morning on the F train for the two years I lived in Park Slope. I heard it so often that I memorized it and would say it along with him. (The first book I wrote had his monologue as the opening 3 lines.)

*A teenager muttering incoherently and repeatedly, “she was just a little girl.” I think she’d been raped recently. She was sitting to herself when she suddenly rose and lunged at a big white guy sitting nearby. It took all his strength to restrain her.

*A teenager cleaning his nails with a humongous knife (like a machete) like it was the most natural thing in the world. – 3 train. Late night (Thank God I was with my boyfriend.)

*A penis. The guy across from me had on true runner’s shorts and no draws. The motion of the train knocked his penis free and the head just lay there on the seat. It was tan (he was Latino) and small, almost baby-size. He seemed not to notice that his penis was free on the seat.

*A fat, pregnant woman smoking a Newport around 2PM on a weekday.

*Networking. The Q train to Manhattan at about 9:30 weekday mornings transports a host of notable hip hop writers, editors and entertainment and fashion folk (I’ve encountered reps from Billboard, XXL,, MTV, Rock n Republic, Essence, Vibe, Atrium, and a couple more I can’t recall since I don’t take that train to work anymore.) It’s like an industry party, sans the music and a liquor sponsor.(I had this post called “Social Hour on the Q train” in my old phone. It got deleted when the phone died.)


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