Riding The Subway

Once a week I take the subway from my home in the ‘burbs to school downtown.  It’s a trip that takes about an hour, but I like trains and I enjoy the ride – pressed into the cars with a multi-racial collection of people of all ages and gender, heavily bundled up against the wintery chill.  It is a sea of black coats, wet boots, and sullen faces -most with earbuds.   Some read, some doze, some just stare ahead without expression.

On the return trip, I spy a vacant seat and consider myself lucky as I sit down for the ride that will take me to the parking lot where my car awaits.  It is then that I notice him – a homeless man on the seat beside me.

Dirty and unshaven, he sleeps oblivious to those around him.  He is likely not as old as he looks, but he has scored a warm place to nap away the bitter cold afternoon.  He smells badly, but I don’t move.  We have each staked out our claim on this train.

I try to read but my attention is faltering.  The homeless man has shifted in his seat and his head has begun to tilt dangerously close to my shoulder.  He smells REALLY badly, but still I don’t move.  I wonder how long he has been riding the train back and forth.  I wonder how long he will be able to continue enjoying his warm nap before he is forced to leave.

I become aware of how odd we likely look – seat companions on this very packed train – and I feel the eyes I’m sure are watching.  My exit finally arrives and I relinquish my seat.  I don’t look back to see if anyone has taken my place.

 

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Attitude, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Riding The Subway

  1. Good for you for not moving. I’m not sure what I would have done. He was probably enjoying the crush of humanity while others with a warm home to go to couldn’t wait to get off the train.

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  2. You would have made his day if he’d been awake. It must be awful to be avoided and stared at by other people – the discomfort of seeing others in that situation often pushes people to be inhumain just by pretending they aren’t there.
    I’ve always been amazed how lonely public transport can be – people are all barricaded behind a newspaper, ipod or smartphone when there are real human beings right beside them. The anonymity and loneliness of life for some in a busy town is saddening.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I agree totally MM. I’m not a regular rider on public transit so I didn’t pause to question why there would be an empty seat on a packed train. Unquestionably, I did feel like we were being stared at … however that may have been just my normal self-conscious feelings bubbling to the surface 🙂

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  3. Yes the subway is a reflection of our City…during the cold spells the homeless just ride back and forth because it’s warm and safe. I’ve seen the staff just let them in for whatever coin they offer because they know they need the shelter. I ride the subway but usually stand by choice because i have an irrational preoccupation with bedbugs. Great post!

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  4. Nicely written 🙂

    I’ve had (still having, in fact) a similar experience on the bus on Mondays, when I return from lessons at the other end of town. There’s a ‘professional’ beggar woman who gets on the same bus after her shift outside the local supermarket ends. She… reeks. On that first ride, I sat right behind her, and although I felt mildly uncomfortable, didn’t change seats. But now, I always let her get on first, so I can choose a seat far, far away…

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    • joannesisco says:

      When you are an experienced transit rider you can develop strategies to avoid the things that make you uncomfortable. I’m still a bit of a newbie and miss cues …. like the homeless man who shouted at me for most of the ride last week. Life seems to be a non stop learning curve 🙂

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      • Aw, that sounds unpleasant 😦 I must say, I’ve experienced very little abuse on public transport, considering how long I’ve been using it (and in various different countries).

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  5. nancytex2013 says:

    I have to admire your fortitude. I am a complete wuss when it comes to odor. In particular body odor. I would rather cover myself in manure or smell a million farts than take even one whiff if B.O.

    Good on ya for taking the comfort of the seat and dealing with the smell so graciously.

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  6. Aw, I loved this, it gave me a warm, cosy glow reading it. I wouldn’t have moved either 🙂 xx

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  7. sueslaght says:

    I say good for you to not judge him and to sit beside him. It may well have been the most human contact in a long time.

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    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks – but I was being territorial. I wanted that seat … and he happened to came with it.
      It is very interesting how those who are dirty, unkempt, muttering loudly to themselves can make us feel very uncomfortable.
      It is often said that the homeless are invisible, but I think we are all highly aware of them but we choose to not ‘see’ them because we are uncomfortable – we feel like our reaction will make us conspicuous so we pretend not to react.

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      • sueslaght says:

        Well I’m going with your gracious reaction not to judge the book by its cover speaks to your kind heart. Having done a fair amount of volunteer work with the homeless population I can assure you that under the exterior these folks have often come from great jobs and families. The issues of mental health and addiction or just very unfortunate series of events can raise havoc in what we might see as a normal person.

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