Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Bullshit on the Train

When I got on the downtown train I perceived a vague commotion at the end of the car. An exchange of words, bodies in contraposition. But there was no shouting and there were no blows; soon the man who seemed to be the subject of it all turned and walked my way bearing an airy, warm expression. Well dressed. Clean. White guy in his forties with a mustache of some sort. He hit a mark right by the door and turned to address the car as best he could. I pretended to listen to my iPhone but I was dying to hear.

The first part of his rant concerned the Stimulus Bill and I wondered whether this was my first encounter with an anti-Obama nut. It soon devolved, however: "They say the stimulus has a fifty or somethin' percent chance of workin'. How many people you know who work a hundred percent at their job? Huh? Insteada talkin' to their girlfriends on da phone, talkin' to their friends when they's supposeta work. Huh? How many of you right here give your all to your job?"

No hands shot up.

"Exactly!" he exclaimed, with all the emphasis that vindication might permit.

I steeled myself for an accusatory diatribe, but his speech took another curious turn, more consistent with his sunny demeanor.

"Dontcha realize how important love is? I want you all ta jus' hug each other right now. Turn to the person next to you and give 'em a hug."

Two young, black men were sitting across from me, swathed in oversize, bubble-padded North Face. The younger one was sitting to my left, leaning back across two seats. He sat up a little and opened a wary eye.

"I ain't givin' no hugs."

The man was undeterred.

"Hugging, tender compassion, love for the neighbor," he pleaded. "They say it's perverted, but it's not!"

The other black guy was stirred from his reverie too. He sat up and looked straight ahead.

"C'mon. No bullshit on the train, son. I wanna chill." He shook his head. "I don't want no bullshit, son. No motherfuckin' bullshit on the train."