Spaced out on the train


This has nothing to do with writing or editing, it’s just a little NY Slice of Life. I plan to post SOLs occasionally when the mood strikes.

One of my “issues” (I have many) about life in the big city is that I get anxious over people being too close to me in public. There are times when you have to put up with touching others; during rush hour on the subway there’s no way around it. I’m OK with that. I have to get somewhere and it’s unavoidable.

But if someone’s breathing down my neck in the subway and there’s plenty of room on the platform, I keep my eye on that person because I don’t trust him. In other words, he makes me nervous. He’s either up to no good or there’s simply something “off” about him because he’s standing that close. I say “him” but it could just as easily be a woman.

I like to space myself out on the train or the bus. As a matter of fact, all people who ride public transportation should should space themselves out. If one person is in the first seat, the proper course of action is to take the back seat, or at least the middle. If the bus or subway car is mostly empty, I don’t sit next to the only other person there. And if I’m the one who’s there first and someone sits close to me, I’ll probably move.

I got on the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) recently with a friend. It was early on a Sunday afternoon, so the train from Great Neck to Manhattan was not crowded. A lot of those seat pairs that face each other were available. My friend wanted to grab one of those. I don’t normally sit in these seats, mainly because if the train gets crowded and all four of these seats have to be occupied, they are too tight for strangers to share–in my opinion, of course. (This is all about my opinion.) Since it seemed unlikely that we’d have to share seats with strangers that day, I reluctantly agreed.

My friend moved toward one of those seats, which was opposite a family with a few kids. I signaled “no” to her and urged her to move on. A baby was screaming in the next car so we moved on again. We finally found a seat in the third car, which was almost empty. Two passengers were across the aisle from us in the pair of seats that mirrored ours. I already felt uncomfortable because I was violating my normal spacing “rules” (there were plenty of empty seats away from other people), but I sat down facing my friend and tried to be OK with it.

However, I soon realized that the young couple across the aisle from us was making out, and because they were facing forward and I was facing backward, we were in each other’s lines of vision.

Excuse me, but … no, this isn’t happening. I don’t mind Public Displays of Affection, but I have my limits. Watching a couple kiss and grope all the way to the city wasn’t how I wanted to spend my ride. My friend was facing forward so I don’t think she realized why I was uncomfortable. I moved and sat right next to her on the same seat. I felt foolish explaining why I’d moved, so I lied: “I think we can hear each other better if we are next to each other.”

She seemed to buy this, and we both put our feet up on the opposite seat and relaxed, having some nice conversations all the way into town.

On the way home, my friend again chose a pair of facing seats. The guy across from us was practically the only other person in the car and there were plenty of secluded seat options that we passed up. I don’t know if I was transferring my uncomfortable feelings onto him, but he seemed anxious, the way he kept shuffling his newspaper and slamming sections of it down onto the seat. Once again, I felt weird explaining my feelings to my friend. I admit they are not logical. Maybe part of it is simply not wanting to bother other people, which I do realize is an impossible dream–people bother other people, especially in NYC.

So I put up with our seating choice but kept my eye on the nervous news reader across the way. I was very relieved when he finally got off the train at Auburndale.

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About janarzooman

Freelance writer and editor. View all posts by janarzooman

2 responses to “Spaced out on the train

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