Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's a helluva town

One day in New York City, I was riding the subway downtown.  Across the aisle sat an older couple, clearly tourists.  The man, a jumpy guy in a baggy sweatsuit, nervously fingered his fanny pack while eying the other passengers.  His wife, also clad in sweats, was rooting through the contents of an enormous denim purse.  Whatever she was looking for was hiding.  Determined to find it, she put both arms in the bag up to the elbows, spread wide the zipper, and inserted her face into the opening. 

As we pulled into a station, the conductor made an announcement over the train's intercom system.  The message was completely unintelligible to me and, judging from their confused expressions, to most of the other passengers as well.  The man across the aisle, however, listened intently to the garbled announcement, jumped up, and bolted off the train.

The woman's head resurfaced from the depths of her purse just in time to see her husband exiting the train.  She gathered her belongings and followed him.  As she was about to step onto the platform, the doors of subway car closed.

On the platform, the man turned and saw his wife still inside the train.  His face took on an expression of surprise and, a split second later, sheer terror.  Six inches away on the other side of the glass, his wife's face twisted into a furious scowl.  She glared at him, baring clenched teeth.  Her red, bulging fists tightened around the strap of her purse.

For several long seconds, the train did not move.  The couple stood frozen in this horrible moment.  Slowly, with a soft whirring noise, the train began pulling away from the station.  The woman stood there, clutching her bag and watching her terrified husband grow smaller and smaller as he receded into the distance.

To my side was my own husband.  He, too, had seen the drama unfold.  "Wow," I whispered, "that guy is in big trouble.  How are they going to find one another?  They'll need to return to the hotel to meet up.  It'll take hours out of their day, including the yelling and abject apologies.  Forget wherever they were headed together."

"Yeah, she's gonna tear him a new one," my husband said knowingly.  "Their vacation is totally ruined.  They may as well go back to Idaho right now."

New York is a tough town, for tourists and residents alike.  But it's the greatest show on earth.

1 comment:

Hans Pols said...

It should be forbidden to wear sweatsuits in public places. It is just plain wrong. Not only that, it is a crime against humanity!