Today I failed as a New Yorker. I'm not proud of it. I am, in fact, more than a bit ashamed of myself. But I can't avoid the truth.
Today I lost it on the subway.
I was that guy. The one causing the disturbance.
I take the A train downtown to work. The A train has the longest gap between stations in the New York subway system - it goes express from 125th street to 59th street. I get on at 207th. I was in a crappy mood - I'm not feeling well, I haven't slept in a few days, and got a phone call in the middle of the night last night telling me my father has gone into the hospital with a stroke - and at 9 am, I have to be downtown to get a frigging physical. My doctor being really busy, if I miss this checkup appointment not only will I pay a penalty for not warning them but it might take another three weeks to make a new one.
So I'm already wound up a little tight. I'm holding my first cup of coffee of the day - the bakery I buy it at in the morning serves it hot, so it's safer to let it cool on the way downtown and drink it around 42nd street.
At 145 St., the train gets moderately full. As we pull away, I notice a loud voice. After a few seconds, I realize that someone just a couple people away from me is preaching. Hard. About JE-sus and how he LOVES me, and how otherwise I'm going to BURN, especially if I'm one of those filthy JEWS that killed the SON OF GOD.
And on, and on, and on.
Everybody does what New Yorkers do - ignores the guy. He doesn't seem to mind. He ends up migrating with the crowd in the car until he's standing just to the right of where I'm sitting, back against the car door, going on at length about how my SOUL is DOOMED but not to worry, because JESUS LOVES me. And so forth.
Now, normally, I can ignore these guys. Or have fun arguing with them. But this guy is really into it, and I have a headache, and the subway car is packed - and somehow, seeing that crowd of New Yorkers with the resigned look on their faces...I don't know. I stood up, backed the guy into the door, and said (loudly) "I don't give a shit if Jesus loves me, but I do know that he wants it a bit more FUCKING QUIET!"
No response. The guy keeps ranting, desperately avoiding looking me in the eye. He's about a foot shorter than me, and weighs maybe 1/3 what I do.
I give him one more glare and slight shove. "Nobody wants to fucking hear it, man."
A hand on my shoulder. I spin. It's another guy, slightly taller than me, a bit younger. "I do. He's got the right."
"H's got the right to shout in my ear all the way downtown about the Jews?"
"Yeah, man." We stare at each other for a second. The preacher hasn't slowed down. Then the other guy's face softens a bit. "Listen to him, man. You can tell this isn't gonna stop."
I turn back, and at that moment, I realize - he's right. This guy isn't just preaching. He's completely out of his mind. He's panicked, because I have him trapped, and he's responded by grabbing at my throat and stepping up his entreaties to Jesus and the Lord God our savior.
I gently detach his hand and step back. The younger guy says "Have a seat, man." He's threatening me, not with violence, but with a Situation between him and me, if I don't comply.
And he's right.
I sit down, nod, and drink my coffee, still furious, now at least half furious at myself.
A couple stops later, the younger guy moves to the door next to me for his station. He looks down. "Have a good day, brother."
I manage to look up, offer my hand. He shakes it. I tell him, "Thanks. I blew the New York Code. Thanks for stepping in."
He does smile then, and says "I'm not kidding. Jesus does love you. But most important, you have a better day, okay?"
Then he leaves.
I drink coffee, listen to the preacher, and shake my head.
Just to make matters worse, today was No Pants on the Subway Day, and I missed it.