ttention passengers ... This downtown number 6 train is
being (unintelligible) ... track fire up ahead ... For your safety
please (unintelligible), then switch for the (unintelligible)
Just another morning on the IRT.
I know better than to make eye contact with potentially psychotic
passengers. So while the train sits motionless, I gaze hypnotically at the
ads above. Why are so many aimed at the physical anomalies of society?
Does the medical community regard the strap-hanging public as a pack of
humpbacked, hammer-toed, hemorrhoidal mutants?
ambulance-chasing law firms display headlines like "Dropped On Your Head As
A Baby?...You May Be Entitled To A Big Cash Settlement." While another
asks, "Illiterate? Addicted to Crack? Out on Parole? The Department of
Motor Vehicles Is Now Hiring."
At 59th Street, the conductor kicks everyone out, announcing the
train disabled. I impatiently wait in the commuter sewer for another
train, wondering why I ever bothered to shower earlier. Rather than arrive
at the office sweating like Patrick Ewing, I opt to catch a cab. But
before I reach the street, some nudnik shoves a Jews for Jesus pamphlet at
me. Yeah, right. And sign me up for Vegetarians For Meatloaf while you're
Upon exiting the subway, Madam Zelda, one of those smarmy storefront
fortune tellers, hands me a leaflet promising the answers to all my love,
health, and financial problems. If Madam Zelda were truly psychic,
wouldn't she already know not to waste her fliers on me?
Unable to find a cab, I cut in front of a couple of unsuspecting
tourists and jump into the one they've hailed.
"Broadway and Astor," I tell the driver.
"Bowery and Eleventh?" mumbles Turbanhead.
"Broadway and Astor," I repeat.
"Broadway and 80th, you say?"
Should I expect anything less from a guy with 29 letters in his name,
none of which are vowels?
Lawrence Taylor is on the car radio announcing the grand opening of
Nobody Beats the Wiz store off some exit in Jersey. If The
Wiz can always refer to itself as Nobody Beats the Wiz, can I
legally change my name to
No Store is Cheap Enough for Mitch?
At 9:50, I finally arrive at my office, where I sneak past my boss
through the back hallway.
Lunchtime. Head to a nearby ATM machine, and as usual, find myself
stuck behind the woman who's applying for a mortgage.
Afterwards, I make myself a salad-to-go at an East Village Korean
grocery, then pass a half dozen Korean knickknack shops on my way to the
Korean-owned dry cleaners. I'm convinced these people heard a voice
saying, "Open a business, and they will come."
Outside Tower Records I walk past a group of 20-somethings with logos
etched into their haircuts. Wonder when the human head became the newest
outdoor advertising medium. Contemplate if at 31, I'm too many letters
removed from Generation X to be cool, or if I'm just turning into my
On my way back to the office, I pass a lineup of street peddlers
displaying their wares on the sidewalk. Should I ever be in the market for
a single worn sock to go with a pair of 70's platforms, a 1989 issue of
People magazine, or a clock-radio from the days when they had
dials, I now know where to shop.
Return to my desk where I eat lunch and make my obligatory weekly
call to my mother in Florida. When she insists I call her neighbor's
niece, Mindi, for a blind date, because "she also lives in Manhattan," I
tell her I have another call, and abruptly hang up.
5:30 - 6:00: Look busy while I wait for my boss to leave
6:00: Boss leaves work.
6:01: I leave work.
Outside Astor Hairstylists, I pass a clique of hard-core punkers
sporting black leather jackets, Doc Marten combat boots, and mental
institution haircuts. Sweat and body odor are worn as alternative outlets
of expression. When they blow their pierced noses, does it find the path
of least resistance -- and squirt out the side?
Entering the subway, I steer clear of a rowdy group of inner-city teens
wearing baggy pants with crotches nearly sweeping the floor. Could they be
hiding something down there? Like pistols?
On the uptown 6, two schmutz-incrusted panhandlers enter the train
from opposite sides and simultaneously begin their spiels. When they meet
in the middle of the car, they engage in a territorial dispute.
At five to seven, I arrive at my tiny 5th floor walk-up where I
sidestep two Chinese menus and a carpet cleaning flier slipped under my
door. The phone's ringing as I enter. "So, Mr. Lemus, we'll have Caller
I.D. hooked up for you by Monday, OK?" says the NYNEX telemarketer, as he
wraps up his monotone scripted pitch.
"You mean with Caller ID, I could tell if it's an annoying salesman
like you even before I pick up?" Click.
I search the refigerator and find Empire Wok leftovers from the night
before last. I eat it cold, straight from the box. Surf the channels but
find nothing on but authoritative-looking men in suits spewing O.J.
Fall asleep on the couch, then wake up to the 11 o'clock news, where an
outraged citizen proposes the Department of Social Services declare the
entire city dysfunctional. It occurs to me that the only way to survive
this city is to be dysfunctional. Or, at least, a little crazier
than the next guy.