A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Another day, another horrifying video of mental illness writ large on the New York City subways.

This week brings us a three-part series of a half-naked (the really naked half) woman perfunctorily attending to her “down there” washing up on the uptown 2 train. (The videos are not embedded here, due to their graphic nature and the likelihood that you’re probably drinking your coffee as you read this and we can’t be held responsible for damages caused by spilling or exaggerated spewing reactions). But I trust you in all your online resourcefulness that, should your curiosity best your ability to reason, you won’t have much trouble finding them. I have sacrificed my own breakfast in order that you may read my words and spare yourself a rather dehumanizing (not to mention icky) viewing experience. Suffice it to say that she leaves no crack unscrubbed. No! Geez! Sorry, I meant to phrase that more euphemistically. No stone unturned. Okay? Got the picture? Also in the third video, something questionable is going on with an empty gallon jug. Some YouTube commenters seem to think she’s relieving herself. Honestly, I couldn’t tell and I feel pretty good about never knowing.

Frankly, what’s more upsetting than the fact that she sits her bare bottom down on a seat (just reinforces my paranoid instinct to remain standing on all subway cars) is the fact that I wasn’t actually that upset by watching these videos. Sure, they’re gross and disturbing. And sad, of course, though really our Bronx-bound express bather didn’t seem in the least bit of distress. She sort of looks like she could break into a round of “Rubber Ducky” at any second. But watching made me realize just how numb I am and so many of us are to these types of things. And I don’t believe that’s due to the fact that we’re jaded, insensitive New Yorkers who see stuff every day that would make a Nebraskan run for the hills (or plains?). No, I’m pretty sure it all boils down to the Internet.

Think about it: who is creepier than a person so sick she casually washes her privates on public transportation? That’s right: the person who sits, watches, and videotapes the whole thing in order to load it onto YouTube for all the world to see (and those of us who couldn’t help but click). Without a doubt, that person bore witness to a pretty incredible story, and I’m sure the desire to share the unreal experience with others was undeniable. And hey, here’s a phone with video capability, and hey! there’s a platform built for readily and immediately sharing such gems with the public. I can’t blame this person for anything he or she did. It was pretty normal behavior, by today’s standards. A classic “only in New York” example just begging to be captured and disseminated. Check and check.

Except that by now, we’ve viewed so many psychotic tirades, so much public nudity, so much shoe-licking and crying and fighting and screaming and all-around whacked out behavior online that not only are we disillusioned New Yorkers (as is our right), but the rest of the world is too! What good are our stories of they can’t shock anyone anymore? Can’t make people laugh or blush or act surprised? What do we have if all of our best material is already yesterday’s meme? Our “only in New York” adventures aren’t only in New York anymore. They’re all over the damn place. And its watering down the little moments that make living here so… uh… charming.

Let’s keep our lunatics local for a little while and work on rebuilding our cred. It won’t be easy, but think of how we can wow ’em at that family wedding in Oklahoma next year! Hey Aunt Hazel, did I ever tell you the one about the guy who eats his own toenails? I’m sure you’ve all got plenty of your own.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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Time For New York To Step Up And Commit Already

Let’s Drop This ‘Rehab’ Thing, Shall We?

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