Last night, I posted this…
…meaning, I had a creepy guy sitting next to me.
There are so many kinds of creeps and weirdos in New York, I can’t address them all in one post. But I haven’t forgotten about you, guy that exposed himself to me at Port Authority, or you, Orthodox Jew that rubbed up against me on the subway, or even you, Hasidic Jewish man at the Manhattan Mall.
Today I’m focusing on a broad subset of weirdos, which can best be described as people that talk to themselves or others for purposes of making people uncomfortable or starting a fight or perhaps just out of loneliness.
A. Years ago, Tom and I were riding the subway together. The car was practically empty. Some guy got on and sat down right next to Tom and asked him to move his foot, which was crossed, resting on his other knee. There was no reason for this guy to sit next to Tom. He just wanted a fight.
B. A couple months ago, there was a very upset drunk guy on the LIRR, cursing while kicking and punching the seat in front of him. A conductor was nowhere to be found.
C. Years ago, an older woman sitting next to me on the subway asked me to turn my ipod down, which annoyed me because my music was not loud at all. She then proceeded to try to make conversation with several other people. I think she was just lonely, but still. Don’t talk to strangers.
Then there was last night which, sadly, was not all that remarkable (except I’m remarking on it, so..?). My seatmate was a large man with a ponytail.
1) He started puffing an electronic cigarette. I know they’re smokeless and I wouldn’t ask anyone to put them out, but they’re not all as odorless as they claim to be, so don’t get smug, smokers.
2) His cigarette wasn’t working, so he cursed and hit it and cursed some more, and took it apart and put it back together, and puffed, and cursed, and shook it, and puffed, and muttered that it wasn’t working.
3) Eventually, he moved on from the cigarette and started going through his wallet. Just cleaning out his wallet… on the train… taking things out and muttering, “This is expired,” “This is old,” “What’s this?”
4) I started feeling uncomfortable because his self-talk increased to a constant stream, coupled with the fact that he was physically between me and my escape route. I decided to get off at Jamaica and switch cars. Here’s how that went down.
Me: Excuse me.
Ponytail: Oh, you’re getting off here?
Ponytail: Oh, well you didn’t give me any notice…
Me: Um, ok, we’re just pulling in now. Take your time.
Then he dropped his wallet on the floor and picked it up, then dropped something else and picked it up, before getting out of my way.
5) Of course, I ran into him at Huntington when we got off the train and I was totally afraid he’d be like, “But you got off the train!” But he was on his cell phone and didn’t notice.
Ok? On his cell phone! As in, he has someone he could have been talking to!
Now, I don’t know why this guy found it necessary to talk to himself the whole train ride, or why he thought I should give him “notice” that I might want to get off the train at one of its many stops. He didn’t seem mentally ill but I acknowledge that you can’t always tell. For now, it just seems that he’s a person that likes talking to himself sometimes. Maybe he, like the ipod lady, is lonely. Nothing wrong with that, in itself.
But here’s the thing, for all the self-talkers out there…
Dear Strangers that Talk to Themselves and Others:
When you talk to yourself, or talk to other people in a manner that is inconsistent with standard daily interactions, you make me nervous. When you curse or lash out, it makes me feel unsafe. This effect is compounded when we are in a crowded, enclosed space. And yes, if you are a large man, this is going to add to my perception of danger. Sorry to profile, but this is instinct kicking in.
New York contains too many people for the small space. It also contains a lot of angry, mentally unstable, and violent people. It is just practical to keep your guard up. When you talk to yourself or lash out in some way, you become unpredictable, which means you are a potential threat. Maybe men don’t worry about this as much, so if it never occurred to you, now you know. In conclusion, self-talkers of New York, please stop making me feel unsafe.
Jill Pinnella Corso
Until all the self-talkers in New York read my blog, I think I’ll just try getting on the train a little later.