February 26, 2009

Another interesting commute

So, there was another lunatic on the subway this evening. On the way home from work, I boarded a half-empty train and found a spot standing in the aisle facing out towards the windows. As the train flew through the dark tunnel, the reflection in the window revealed a grizzled, disheveled gentleman sprawled across the row of seats behind me, with his belongings sprawled across the row of seats ahead of him. Before the train had gotten very far, he began sputtering and grumbling. I continued watching in the reflection as a fellow commuter noticed, shifted, and moved to the other end of the car. Despite his apparent weirdness, the lunatic had the presence of mind at the next stop to gather himself and his belongings into one row of seats and offer the row he emptied to some new passengers.

As the train continued, the volume of his mutterings increased until it became clear to us all that he had a serious issue with air travel. "Don't fly the goddamned airplanes up in the sky! I don't unnerstand you people, why you wanna fly? God said keep your feet on da ground! I'm tryin' to save you, like Jesus Christ, I try to save you!" All of this tumbling out of his almost toothless mouth in the most gravelly voice I've ever heard. He'd occasionally become more excited, at one point standing and leaning over between the two people in the row in front of him. One of the two, commendably, remained calm and quietly urged the lunatic to take a break, telling him that we understood, it was ok, he should sit down. It worked. He gradually calmed a bit, telling us again in a lower voice that he loved us and just wanted to save us.

As always in these situations, my attention shifted between the lunatic and the reactions of the people around him. On a few of the faces nearby, I sensed alarm, annoyance, stifled giggles. Most, though, stoically gave no indication that they noticed anything at all out of the ordinary.

On and on the guy went, standing and waving his arms, sitting back down and grumbling, then standing again to exhort us all to stay outta the goddamned airplanes up in the sky. I wanted so badly to turn around and ask him what he thought of cars. What held me back? Sure, a part of me was apprehensive of further setting him off, uncertain of how close he might be to whatever line kept him from physically accosting any of us. But I think a bigger part of me feared something else. What if he didn't understand the question? What if he flat out ignored me? I honestly think I was afraid of being rebuffed by a lunatic.

After a while, he again quieted down and sprawled back in his seat, letting out periodic low cackles. I glanced up from scribbling at one point and happened to catch his eye. A moment later I heard him mutter "What's she writin' over there? She writin' a book?" A young couple a few rows up captured his attention then and he began babbling about how nice it is to have a girlfriend. Next minute, though, we heard over and over about how the girlfriend had been kidnapped, and that "They gonna kill da white girl on tv." But he was an equal opportunity lunatic, because very soon "They gonna kill da white man, too..."

Thirty-five minutes after I boarded, when the train reached the end of the line and we all got off, he stayed sprawled and rambling in his seat. I can picture him now, riding into the night, warning his fellow subway passengers of the dangers of "the goddamned airplanes." Hopefully, at some point, his mind will let his body rest.

11 comments:

The Crow said...

Sounds like his mask had slipped too far...do any of us have that secure a grip on the masks we wear, I wonder?

Interesting observations, provocative. What replaces our mind when we lose it? Is personality nothing more than electro-chemical processes? What a magnificent organ is the brain.

KaliDurga said...

I have to wonder if he left his mask on an airplane sometime long ago. Presumably something must've happened to him involving a plane, but maybe that's too neat an explanation for his obsession.

"What replaces the mind when we lose it?" Nice phrasing to that question, it's an intriguing thing to ponder.

Truman Soloist said...

I dub the subway man: Post 9/11 Apocalyptic Mass Transit Evangelical Traveler.

KaliDurga said...

Good one. And thank you on his behalf. Even the overlooked and unrecognized need a name.

Groover said...

Thanks for this post.

I guess air travel is a very contemporary topic to obsess with, seeing that there is a plane crash in the news almost every week... even a saner mind could be forgiven to worry about it.

Sean said...

This is just one reason among many why I love public transportation. When I attempted to get on the light rail today, several guys jumped out, quickly followed by the guy whose laptop they'd just stolen. Never a dull moment on the train!

KaliDurga said...

Groover- That's a good point. Who knows what sort of recent news the guy was aware of?

Sean- No kidding. The wackier the ride, the better.

birds fly said...

It was Robert E. Lee Park (aka Lake Roland). My favorite birding spot in the area, in part because I can easily bike or walk to it but also because of the diversity. Kind of crazy seeing as it's literally just over the city-county line.

birds fly said...

There are a few issues with the park. The first one is that the pedestrian bridge at the main entrance that leads into the largest section of the park is closed until further notice due to instability. It's been closed before, and then reopened, then closed again. I think the city and county are fighting over who will pay to fix it. So going in the main entrance will not get you very far; however, there are other ways to get into the main part of the park. The second issue is that it's a *very* popular place for people to walk their dogs. It can be very busy on the weekends, but because the park is so big, there are ways to avoid the crowds. My favorite entrance to the park is off of Cooper Hill Rd. However, you can't park your car there. You could park somewhere off of Falls Rd in the vicinity and walk in, though. It's been my experience that this is the least busy area of the park, probably because no cars are allowed. It's also the most interesting section because of the pine barrens ecoystem. It's hard to believe that it's so close to the city. You can also get to the rest of the park from here. There are lots of trails, all unmarked. If you drive farther up Falls Rd there are also other ways to get into the park. You can tell where they are because there are always cars parked on the side of the road. I tend to spend the longest periods of time there on weekdays (I don't work on Fridays), because people and their dogs can be very loud and aggravating, but like I said the park is big enough that you can find ways to avoid them.

I love Soldier's Delight, by the way. It's such a unique place! And there are always so many turkey vultures swooping around. Gunpowder is good, too; I like the section off Bel Air Rd.

human being said...

i share your fear...
the place is very important... there - on the subway - you were all equal...
suppose you were a doctor in you office... you could ask him any question you'd like...

there's some truth in his words...

first we should feel the ground underneath our feet... then we can think of flying... otherwise it can be dangerous...
:)

thanks for sharing this with us... very thought-provoking in any aspect...

KaliDurga said...

Thank you, my friend. You found an interesting perspective on it :)