A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
Here is a little Friday morning quiz for you.
The other day during my 8:30 a.m. commute, I saw a woman eating WHAT on the subway:
a) A cheese danish
b) Spaghetti and meatballs
c) A tin of sardines
d) An actual bowl of cereal
I’ll give you a minute.
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo . . .
If you said A, you’re wrong!
If you said B, you’re months behind the news cycle!
And if you said C, well, you are correct! Ding ding ding!
I am not kidding. I stepped onto the subway car and immediately smelled a very strong fishy scent. I casually (and by that I mean angrily and obviously) looked around to find the source. That’s when I noticed the very well-dressed, middle-aged woman sitting near where I was standing, with a briefcase on her lap and a rolled back tin of sardines in her hand. She was eating them one by one, clearly relishing each bite. When she had swallowed the last little guy, she then dipped her fingertip into the residual oil, rubbed it on her teeth and gums, put the tin in a plastic bag and, the ritual now finished, leaned back and closed her eyes in a state of utter satiety.
I glanced at my neighbors to see if anyone else had witnessed this bizarre public display. But if they did, they were better fakers than I. I looked back at the woman to examine her for any other indications of oddness or antisocial tendencies. None. By all appearances, she was just another person on her way to work, having a little brekkie on the 1 train.
I’m sorry. But I don’t care if you’re eating an apple or a whole grilled salmon. Eating on the subway is gross. First of all, when you’re eating at home or in a restaurant, would you feel okay if someone came over and started breathing all over your food within an inch of your face? Because that’s pretty much what’s happening here. Not to mention all the airborne germs and dirt and plus you had to have touched something on your way into the station, which automatically means you probably just gave yourself e. coli.
And then there is the other side of the coin, which is that as much as the underground world is infecting you, you are affecting everyone else around you. And this goes for any mode of public transportation. I was once boarding an airplane when I smelled something awry. I turned around to see a woman produce a steaming hot dog with the works from some magic, stinky Mary Poppins bag.
Who told you that was okay? You were sadly misinformed.
All food smells nauseating when enclosed in a small, dirty space with a thousand people you don’t know. Even a Big Mac and fries suddenly takes on an unpleasant odor, which it normally makes me want to reach out and steal someone’s Happy Meal.
I don’t want to begrudge the sardine lady an experience which clearly brought her great joy, despite the fact that it brought me great nausea. And I wasn’t about to go all spaghetti and meatballs on her, anyway. But, ew. And also, blech.
On the bright side, I think we can use this episode to augment the list of pros for keeping trash cans in the subway stations.
#4,372: Oily sardine cans must be disposed of expediently and properly, unless you want to start seeing hundreds of stray cats living below the platform instead of rats.
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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