A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

By Nina Pajak

Last Friday was a bad day. It was pouring rain, and nobody likes to schlep into work on a rainy Friday.

So it’s no surprise when emotions are running high and on public display in those sorts of conditions. But I was still totally horrified by an altercation I witnessed on the subway on the way in to work.

It’s not that subway altercations shock me in any way on the whole. They’re an average enough occurrence, and while I do normally hold a certain amount of disdain for people who can’t hold their shhhh together for the several minutes they’re forced to share a small space with strangers, I also don’t care. Whatever.

But on Friday morning, something really rubbed me the wrong way. As these things usually go, I missed the initial point of contact. But using the power of observation and inference, I deduced that a homeless man knocked into a passenger while in the process of dragging his two mammoth carts onto the subway car. What followed was very confusing.

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First, the homeless guy started screaming at the other passenger about how he does this every single day at the exact same time, same car, same door, same seat. To this I can attest, as I’ve seen him in the station in precisely the same spot many times before. What claim this gives him is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but he was insistent on the point. The other man at first appeared to be attempting to placate him, but I realized that what he was really doing was arguing back.

Arguing back with a man who was demonstrably wacky and bizarrely angry. He was shushing him and calming him down, but he also kept beleaguering the point that the man ought to “watch himself.”

“NO, YOU’VE GOT TO WATCH YOURSELF, BROTHER,” the homeless man hollered, with an emphasis on “brother” which made me suspect he was sarcastically repeating it back to his adversary.

It just kept going. The homeless wacko yelling and the “normal” passenger calming smiling and condescendingly pursuing what was clearly a pointless debate. The longer it went on, the more I suspected that the average-looking guy was probably crazier than the crazy guy. Or just an enormous d-bag.

I found myself rooting for the nut with the carts, wishing he would reach out and pound the guy on the head or pull a small knife on him or something. I didn’t want any real violence to occur, I just wanted the other guy to be taken down a peg or two. I’d decided he was an out-of-state transplant, partly based on his outfit (cargo shorts on a rainy fall work day?) and partly based on the idiotic, smug grin and insistence on instigating with an angry person on the subway rather than just ignoring and leaving the poor guy alone. He drags his carts onto the same train at the same time every day. That’s his thing. It’s possible that is his only thing. Somehow, cargo shorts interfered with that. Dude. Step aside, and get along with your day. His hubris was infuriating.

Finally (this entire altercation took place in only one stop), the doors opened and the jerk announced that this was his exit.

“Let’s do coffee! Let’s do lunch. I gotta go,” he chirped as he strolled out the doors. The homeless guy peered at him as though he was finally realizing what a crackpot he’d been dealing with. I wanted to shove him onto the platform. If I’d been standing closer, I may have even said something. Or, let’s be honest, probably not. Though if I see him again, maybe I’ll accidentally stomp on his toe and see where it goes.

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