Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Two Twenty Five is a lot for Some People



New York City the self -proclaimed "Greatest City in the World." Sure it's expensive but that money pays for non-stop excitement-even at 11:00am on a Saturday morning in the safe neighborhood of 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
The Commute
Rachael Parenta
Saturday August 6, 2011  11:00am. 
My boyfriend, Patrick, and I are on our way home from work.  I work with moving companies, which specialize in corporate moves, disconnecting and reconnecting the moving employees’ computers.  Yes, this is a job.*   My job requires me to crawl around under desks, and I dress appropriately for the task at hand.  I’m wearing baggy, camouflaged, cargo pants I bought at a store called Phat Alberts* in their boys section ($10), perfectly complimented by my company issued gray golf shirt ($0).  The shirt sort of fits my five foot one inch frame.   It looks like I’m wearing an older brother’s hand-me downs.   Patrick who stands a foot taller than me also dons the grey, company-issued, golf shirt. We are one of those adorable couples who wear matching outfits.  Just to complete the picture that is us, I have my brown curly hair pulled back into a bun. Patrick doesn’t have enough dirty, blonde hair to pull into an anything.
On this day we work near Lexington Avenue and E. 59th street*.  Sak’s and Brooks Brothers are located here.
Patrick passes through the turnstile ahead of me with ease and waits, lost in his thoughts. I stand with my metro card* in hand ready to swipe it at the turnstile.  I continue to stand in the non-crowded, subway station repeatedly swiping my card. The little, swipey machine mocks me over and over as it tells me to "please swipe again at this turnstile." “You’re going too fast.”  Swipe. “No, now it’s too slow.” Swipe. “No, you didn’t swipe it with enough class.” Swipe.  “Again, for the cheap seats in the back.”  Swipe. “Try flicking your wrists.”   Yes, through all the fare hikes the NYC MTA* has levied they have yet to upgrade their magnetic strip reading device.*  I think to myself,  I'm lucky that a bunch of ambitious, in-a-rush New Yorkers aren't in back of me telling me to fuck myself!  
Silly and optimistically, I count my lucky stars so soon. As I battle with the turnstile I notice a woman standing in front of me on the other side of the turnstile. Kind of like if one of us was visiting the other in prison.  She seems to want to exit the subway platform, but she does not move to one of the many empty turnstiles to my right. Weird. 
Finally, the steel Praetorian Guard of the 4,5,6,Q,N, R trains reads my metro card and let me pass.  
11:02am
However, this lady does not let me pass.  She mumbles something at me that I cannot make out.  I just keep walking down the subway platform toward the stairs that lead to my train, ignoring the pale lady with dull, orange hair.  She follows me, her chunky body surprisingly nimble.  She starts out behind me standing near the turnstile to all of sudden inches from the right side of my face. She repeats her inaudible utterance toward me. What do I do?  The only sensible thing.  I yell in her face, "WHAT?!" and run.  She follows me. I stop running. I could keep running but that means running down to the next level where the QNR trains travel. Running down a flight of stairs is dangerous. Then of course I could run all the way downstairs keeping my footing the whole time only to have to stop and wait for my train to arrive. It’s a Saturday I could be waiting until Monday for a train.* Will she follow me on the train? Will I have to out run her when I arrive in Flatbush?* No, I’ll just stop now.
I assess she is not a panhandler. Beggars in NYC don’t chase you.  Instead, a person in need asks for money.  Then you either give it to him or her, ignore the person, or say, “No.” Next the individual walks away or lets you walk away. This is a city of 8 million people someone else will be along shortly.
Why do I run? I don’t know.  I’m stopped by random strangers all the time. Usually people want directions.   It’s one of the many burdens of looking non-threatening; if only I were long-legged and sexy people would be intimidated by my beauty. This is the first time I respond with a 17 yard dash.  Maybe it is the way the pupils of her green eyes looked kind of like “Children of the Corn” eyes.  Maybe it is her own horrible outfit:  too tight, jean shorts and an ugly white t-shirt, which was tight in all the wrong places. Maybe it is everything put together. My instincts said to run, and those instincts were right.
11:09am
She gets in my face and yells at me for yelling at her. I try explaining to her this is New York and her behavior is threatening.  Yes, I’m trying to rationalize with a person whose two eyes refuse to focus on the same point.  As quickly as a speed ball stops a heart she randomly changes tactics. She starts telling me a sob story. She tells me all she needs is some help. And then she keeps talking. I now know more about this woman than I do any of neighbors and none of them have ever chased me.  She hails from South Boston, she claims she is pregnant, which explains why her shirt fits weirdly. She is on her way to her first-born’s birthday party.  Apparently, she and her mating partner don’t want to let a single egg go unfertilized.
11:10am (the sob story)
She is lost. Someone took her purse and her wallet. “Don’t you feel guilty now?” she asks. “Um, no.” I reply. And here I discover her motive for blocking the turnstile. She asks, “How would you like it if I took your bag and wallet?”  This is some sort of attempted mugging.  And that’s the thing, being mugged by a woman. It takes forever.  There is so much talking. “Dude,” I respond “I don’t have any money.”  Which isn’t entirely true.  I have three dollars in my wallet; that is in my black messenger bag; that is slung across my left shoulder.
 She continues the mugging by guilt trip and I think “Are you trying to mug me or are we breaking up.”  I walk away. She steps in front of me and takes a fighting stance.
11:12am
My knight in a grey polyester shirt finally appears. Patrick steps in between us.
Patrick was waiting for me to beat her down. When I didn’t he thought maybe he should prevent me from receiving a beat down. 
My assailant changes from ex-con to doctor Phil and asks Patrick, “What are you doing with her? You could do so much better.”  And I was like, “Thank you. I knew my mother was wrong about him, he is a catch.”  I can’t wait to shove the opinion of a crack head in mom’s face. I guess Miss Southy 2011 figures if she can’t steal my money she can try to steal my man. I know dating in New York City is cut throat, but to have your boyfriend mugged away from you—only in New York.
 She remains in her fighting stance as she flirts with Patrick. Patrick tries to defuse the situation. He raises his hands and frames his face -- like a human sunflower. He stands between us. “Hey let’s all relax here.” Yadda yadda, Soothing soothing.
The emotional mugger, who I now decide looks like one of those third-party, mayoral candidates* and is as logical, would not be deterred.  She tries to get at me by going around my boyfriend. So I put up my fists. And she starts criticizing my fighting stance. “What are you doing? You don’t even know how to fight? You got to put your hands up like this." Rocky Marciano proceeds to bring her hands so far up that her elbows are by her chin and her forearms are completely blocking her vision.  I see my moment, not to diffuse the situation, but to prove that it is she who has the stupid fighting stance.  I reach around my boyfriend and push her hands in her face. 
Or so I wanted to. Instead I just feel a little hurt. She reiterates that she is pregnant. I snap back, “Pregnant or just fat?” Hey, she started with the insults.
I ask myself why am I not putting my fist through her throat?   Why am I standing here dealing with this?  It’s about ten minutes already.   We’re just standing here. I studied karate for 20 years. Yes. Surprise! I know how to throw a punch and a straight forward kick. This could have ended 8 minutes ago after she chased me. She is only 3 inches or so taller than me.  But no. I wasted 20 years of study, training, and practice.
We  are in this stand-off underground. Every now again a random person passes us and says nothing. They call no one.  And she keeps telling us she’s pregnant. I keep saying random things like, “How can you be pregnant? You’re drunk at 11:00am.”  Why the time of day she was drunk is supposed to disprove her claims of pregnancy I don’t know.   Patrick keeps trying to calm everyone down. She denies being drunk. In fairness she is probably on something illegal.
She does not walk away.  I will not shut up and Patrick still has his hands up—sunflower still in full bloom.
11:16am
This thought does not occur to me “Well, she is between us and the track and we can turn around and run out of the subway station.”  
11:16:15am
I notice there is an underground newsstand. Maybe the purveyor of the stand has a land line. My little legs make a break for the newsstand. I leave Patrick in the dark about my plan because she isn’t deaf.  She chases me. Patrick tries to stay in between us. But he can’t. And he can’t hit her.  He’s a 6 foot tall man.  He’d get arrested even though she was in the wrong. He might not get convicted, but who wants to be finger printed, and spend the day at the precinct as this all gets sorted out.
I get to the convenience store that really is just an alcove in the wall of the subway station.  Panicked. I ask the man behind the counter to call the cops. He declines. The phone hangs on the wall 15 feet in front of my face. His inertia mocks me.  Why can’t this guy be one of those blue collar heroes the Daily News* loves to write about? Dude, think of the free publicity.  Who wouldn’t want to buy a bag of peanuts from the “Subway Bodega Hero?”
She arrives seconds later and goes for me. I step back and throw a lame kick. I move backward while throwing it.  It lands in her abdomen, but not very hard.   Candy bars fall from pyramid of snacks for sale. The store owner yells at us to get out of his store. “Just call the cops. She’s terrorizing me!”  Patrick gets in between the two of us again. “No, get out. Go to the station agent.*” A little audience has gathered to see the free drama.  They kept a safe distance. I implore them to “HELP!” but they don’t. Now Ms. Crazy starts saying, “You kicked me in the stomach. I’m pregnant. All these people heard me tell you before you kicked me.”
“You attacked me.” I reply with incredulity.
“No. You kicked a pregnant woman.”
“I barely kicked you” it was a shameful kick, I’m humiliated by that kick.
            Her constant mentioning of her pregnancy was really weird. Maybe this isn’t a mugging but con. Her plan: to harass me until I beat her. Then she sues me for injuring her and her unborn child that doesn’t exist. She claims I caused the miscarriage, an extra $50,000.  Or she never actually sues me, but threatens suit in order to get paid cash on sight.    
She picked the wrong mark. I have no assets. Sure there’s my college education, but all that’s worth is a part time job plugging in computers. She’d be better off suing her crack dealer.
The news stand idea was a bust. No one helped us.
11:22am
 I run again. She stops by the station agent booth. Good go report me, whore. You’re the one with criminal record. And again instead of running out of the station I run down the stairs toward the NRQ trains.   I don’t want to have to pay an extra $2.25 to get back into the subway. I figure we have time to wait for our train it’s going to take forever for the cops to come and her to file a report. By that time I’ll be cruising over the Manhattan Bridge. Huzzah!
11:23am
The train arrives. We are about to get on the train.  Wait. Where is Patrick? He is still upstairs.  Apparently, he is distracting her and trying to keep her from coming down the stairs. How am I supposed to know that?  Unaware of what is going on upstairs I yell for him from the lower level platform. I yell, “Eileen! Eileen.” That’s the name his mother would have named him if he were a girl. I don’ want to yell his actual name. I don’t want her to know it. Shockingly, Patrick does not reply to “Eileen” being shouted.
11:25am
 I can’t just leave him with the nut job. If I get on the train who is going to stand-by his side? Who will agitate her more while at the same time not subdue her?  The train pulls out of the station with none of us on it. Oh how I just want to go home.
They came down together, thankfully, not hand in hand.  Patrick again stands between us where she then starts trying to coax me to fight her. “You’re\a such a coward? You’re sucha pussy you have to hide behind your boyfriend?” 
"Uh. This is actually the gender appropriate response. I'm a girl.  I'm not supposed to have an ego so fragile that I can't walk away from a fight. You can’t emasculate me.  I was never born with testicles.” 
11:26am
Another Q train arrives at the station within a couple of minutes. This one is going in the wrong direction to Queens*.  There are people down here waiting for the subway. They of course make their way to different cars as the Q train doors open. We take our Sartre play on the Q train to Queens. 
We stand near the doors. She has her back to the end of one bench. Patrick stands facing her with his back to me. I stand behind him with my back to the beginning of the next bench of seats. The handful of passengers in the car with us are very engrossed in their books, smart phone solitaire, and their music.
 We ride east through the darkness of the subway tunnel.  I guess the con is over because now she just tries to grab Patrick’s wallet out of his back pocket. But I stand right there. I pull her hand off his wallet.  I take his wallet and put in my messenger bag. I don’t put her hand in a wrist lock.    Now she grabs after my messenger bag. I take her hand off my bag. Oh the germs she probably carries. Ugh!  She never gets a good grasp because she has to reach around Patrick.
11:27am
"Look, lady! I’m not willing to spend an extra 2 dollars to get away from you. What kind of money do you think I have?”  She tries kicking me despite Patrick being in her way.  She calms down for a second, collecting herself.
11:28am
She whips out a hypodermic needle and waves it in Patrick’s face, “You don’t want me to stick you with this.” Patrick’s sunflower wilts as he says, “OK now you’ve threatened me with deadly force. I will punch you in the face.”  She puts the needle away and says, “I have no reason to live.”
Light begins to slide into the subway car. Sun! Hope! The train was in Queens on an elevated rail. Never have I been so happy to be in Queens.
11:29am
“Queensboro Plaza next stop,” the PA system informs me.  You better believe it is!  I grab my cell phone and call the cops.  The human brain cannot multi task. To remove myself from the distraction that is this walking Lifetime movie I walk across the car to the opposite door. Oops. Now Patrick is no longer between us. As I dial 911 and try to talk to the operator as our assailant continues to assail me with kicks. Unable to talk to the  911 operator and defend myself the Ginger lands a kick on my shin.  “She just kicked me in the shin, “ I told 911.  I repeated “Q train at Queensboro Plaza” 4 times. It kind of reminded me of the turnstiles 30 minutes ago. The train doors opened.
11:33am
She fled.  “She ran away,” I informed 911. We hung up. Of course the train doors didn’t close right away, “We are delayed. Please be patient.” *  She doesn’t return. We travel two more stops into Queens just to be safe.
11:37am-11:52am
 We wait for a train to Brooklyn.
One uneventful hour later we were home.

And of course through this whole saga of running, being chased, screaming to onlookers, "She's terrorizing me! She's terrorizing me," and the harassment by one crazy bitch, not one New Yorker did anything. No one even bothered to whip out a cell phone and record it. I mean that could have been my big break, a viral You Tube video. I could have been a guest on the Today Show or Letterman. They would have introduced me to America as the girl who wouldn’t spend an extra 2dollars and 25 cents to save her own life.




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