Friday, January 12, 2007

breakdown on the blue line

"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be stopped at the station while the train in front of us holds for a sick passenger. Thank you for your patience."

Everyone else around the Metro car wears the resigned, vacant expressions of rush hour commuters at the end of a long day, but at this our faces fall just a little bit more. It's 6:30 and we're all tired and not feeling particularly charitable, even towards a person so sick that s/he is halting Metro with ill health.

I know I'm in a mood. Because all of my comfortable work shoes are at the cobbler I'm wearing six-year-old boots with a broken inner sole on the right shoe and am walking on a blister roughly the size of Ted Kennedy. Tomorrow is the big biannual work event I'm in charge of and maintenance couldn't be bothered to set up the space on time, so I will just have to cross my fingers that there are tables waiting for me at 7 AM.

Oh, and my father is back in the hospital and today underwent his second major surgery in less than a month and I'm taking indefinite family medical leave to go to Michigan and take care of him and am kind of incredibly scared and for the last three days have started to cry at the slightest provocation, such as when a song by Nizlopi or John Gorka pops up on my iPod or when I see a tall white man with silver hair on the street or, y'know, the act of being awake.

I am not to be trifled with today. Even by people who aren't trying to trifle with me.

I look around me and for the first time see a twentysomething guy in a suit and leather jacket sitting two seats behind where I stand. He's poking at his Blackberry, which he then sets on the empty seat next to him as he rummages in his pocket, extracting a cell phone. Yes. He is using two electronic communication devices on the Metro while taking up two seats, surrounded by fellow commuters packed into the car and almost falling on top of him as he stretches his lower half into the leg space for the window seat.

Oh NO he did not.

I start polite. I turn around and look at him smiling, almost simpering "Excuse me, is someone sitting there?" as I point to the empty seat next to him. Obviously no one is sitting there, except maybe his imaginary childhood best friend.

He stares at me for the briefest of seconds, then lowers his head and begins to poke at his cell phone keypad. It's as if I spoke in Klingon. Maybe he's deaf, I too-generously think to myself. It's my better side trying to stem the tide of my growing anger. Oh, this is going to be so fun.

"EXCUSE ME." I am loud enough that the people sitting behind him (facing the other direction) and the several passengers in the aisle space between us look at me, all probably hoping that the angry girl isn't speaking to them. "CAN YOU PLEASE MOVE OVER? THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE IN HERE WHO COULD USE A SEAT."

There is absolutely no way that a hearing person in his seat could not hear me. How do I know he can hear, you ask? Because he lifts the phone to his ear and begins to speak into it. "Dude, the Metro is stuck. I'm running late."

I'm pretty sure that by this point there is steam coming out of my ears, nose and pores. I've been feeling utterly helpless and alone and impotent for days, asking myself what kind of universe allows terrible things to happen to a man like my father and a family like mine. It's not this guy's fault that Dad can't catch a break with his health or that the four people in my family now live in four different states or that I don't have someone I feel close enough to to fall apart in front of like I need to, because if I don't get the inevitable breakdown out of my system at least once during this whole mess than I run the risk of doing it in front of my family and they shouldn't have to deal with it on top of everything else. Technically, yes, he is a jerk, but an innocent bystander/jerk.

But he is going to pay for it all anyways.

"Who the HELL do you think you ARE?!" I yell at him. Oh, he's heard me now. He's resolutely staring straight ahead still talking on the phone, but the color rises in his face from his dress shirt collar. The train jolts to life and lurches into the tunnel, right on cue as I start to really get into a groove. "No, really?!" I cry. "You think you're so damn important that you get two seats while everyone has to smash into each other in the aisle? Are you really that much of a self-important asshole that your fucking Blackberry gets its own seat at rush hour? Ooh, look at the big important man with his big important toys! There are PEOPLE STANDING RIGHT OVER YOU, you shit. What the hell kind of person thinks he's soooooo special that everyone else has to stand while he gets two whole seats to himself?!"

I'm so worked up that I barely notice we've reached the next station. He gets up, still staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge me or my tirade as he parts the sea of passengers and squeezes his way to the door, leaving the two seats in contention wide open. The older woman who had been between me and the seats looks at me like she's asking for my permission to sit down, like if she does so without my consent I might bite her. Oh God. What the hell did I just do?

"Ma'am, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you all had to hear that. That is not me... he... people like that."

She nods silently and slides into the window seat, then pats the aisle seat next to her with her purple-gloved hand. I plop myself down and stare ahead just like the guy had moments before. I'm afraid to try and explain or say anything at all, so I take the yuppie way out and shove my iPod buds into my ears. And... and I swear I'm not making any of this up... my sister's voice suddenly fills my head.

I met a man without a dollar to his name
Who has no traits of any value but his smile...


I grit my teeth. I will not lose it any more than I already have, I will not lose it any more than I already have.

9 comments:

E :) said...

I'm so sorry EJ. You, your Dad, and the rest of your family are in my thoughts. I hope he gets well soon - I know how awful it is to have a seriously ill parent.

Jen said...

Dammit, Em. I was doing really well - I hadn't cried all day.

Ryane said...

What an ass. I would've applauded you if I had been on that train.

Best wishes to your family...

carol said...

i lurrrrrrrrv you and i can't wait to see you.

Heather B. said...

And that's perfect justification for giving someone the finger or kicking. I like kicking.

In all seriousness, I'm really, really sorry. And hoping that things work out for you and your family.

Lindsay said...

Good on you for yelling at that tool. Seriously, what an asshole.

Hoping for the best for you and your family.

Lillian said...

Oy vey--some days life just lays it on thick, doesn't it? Good for you for yelling at that douchebag. He deserved it, regardless of your stress level.

Mainly though, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. I hope he recovers quickly, but until then you're all going to be in my thoughts and prayers.

Hey Pretty said...

Poor EJ!

TTQ said...

You could have picked up his blackberry and thrown it out a door or a window. I suspect that could have legal ramifications though. The purple gloved lady gave you a seat, so we know there are some good people on mass transit.