Friday, July 20, 2007

The Road Home

Last night a friend and I went to see Harry Potter at the Imax, the midnight showing. It was pretty good. They did a fine job of cutting in order to turn a 750 page book into a two hour and fifteen minute movie. But this is not a post about that but about what happened after.

My friend and I parted ways on the sidewalk, she going to the 1 train on Broadway and I to the A on Central Park West. At 2:30 am the A runs local so rather than go downtown to Columbus Circle I went north to 72nd. No sense backtracking. I entered the station at 70th street. When I tried to go through the turnstile I discovered my Metrocard had expired. No worries, there was a machine right there. I tried to buy a new monthly card. But the machine could not read my debit card, nor my credit card. I could have left the station and walked to the entrance at 72nd but I risked missing a train which at this time of night would be a real pain. So I used two dollars to buy a single ride. There was another woman there. We waited. About 20 minutes into the waiting a D train passed on the express track, as it should. But then 10 minutes after that an A did the same. I ran down the stairs to the downtown track to discover an A local pulling out. I climbed back up the stairs feeling very very heavy. There were some MTA workers in the station collecting the trash. I asked one of them if the A was running express uptown all night. He said he didn't know but pointed to some service posters. Indeed, the A was running express uptown. I had missed the posters because I'd had my back to them while fighting with the Metrocard machine. I did some swearing and left the station. Rather than go all the way down to 59th I went to Broadway and 66th to take the 1.

It was now 3 am. There were three others in the station. A woman with suitcases, a young man, and a young woman with her head on the man's lap. She appeared to be asleep. We waited for about 10 minutes which seemed like 3 hours during which I pleaded with any deity who would listen for a train. I didn't know that I was about to get a lesson about self-pity and about what constitutes a real problem.

When the 1 arrived it became apparent that the girl was asleep because she was really drunk. The young man half carried her into the car and they collapsed into a corner seat. Three men standing near them eyed her warily. The young man assured them that she would just pass out. He was wrong. Moments later she threw up. On the seat, on herself, and on the young man. The three men moved away and at the next station left the train after wishing the young man good luck. The rest of the train made various comments. At 3 am people are louder, more ready to engage with others. There was one group of 4 men who were particularly loud and obnoxious. At this point I began to search through my bag. I thought I had some tissues. When I found them I walked over and gave them to the young man. It was only a few, enough to wipe her face and maybe her hands which is what I told the man across from me who said that wouldn't do any good. But that's not why I gave him the tissues. It was a gesture of sympathy. Here he was, covered in vomit, unable to do anything to help the girl or himself, having to listen to the car laugh about it. I wanted to give him one tiny decent moment in all of that. They got off the train at 116th street. I wondered if they would have to pass a doorman to get home. Not a nice thought. At least the people on the train were strangers. You have to look the doorman in the face every day.

When I got on that train I'd been feeling angry. Mostly at myself for missing the information I needed to keep me from waiting 30 minutes for a train that wasn't going to stop but also at the MTA for putting the posters in the last place anyone would look as they entered the station. Especially late at night when the information is particularly needed. I had spent an extra two dollars and had to walk all over the place to get a train. I wouldn't get home until almost 4 in the morning. But now the anger was gone. All of those things were still true but I had not thrown up all over myself on the train nor had I been thrown up on by someone I was trying to take care of while being laughed at and wondering if I was going to be able to get this person all the way home. Perspective, it makes all the difference.


karen said...

Perspective is good to have...and I'm impressed you were able to grasp it at 3am! Then again, perspective arriving on a BIG RED TRUCK like you saw is probably not easy to ignore at any hour.

Joy, of course said...

Wow. I must say I am amazed at your compassion. I wonder if I would have been so compassionate in this situation. But that's what grace really is, isn't it. It's kindness to someone who might not deserve it. I commend you for grace in this moment. It's very inspirational.

The Plaid Sheep said...

@Joy: Thank you very much. I have been working on my patience and compassion. It comes most easily for others, harder for myself.