It is afternoon time at one of the most congested Subway Stations in NYC. Fulton Street. Transfers to the J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5, C, and A trains.
The large army of Manhattan bound people move in a fast pace. It seems like their destination is the only thing on their minds. Following the swift, precise motions of the crowd, I make my way down three levels of stairs towards the train. Finally my last transfer. It feels like I’m almost home.
As I meet the last stairwell a loud “Whooshhh” noise echoes behind me. There it is, the star, the A train gleaming in rusty silver. The crowd rushes down the last flight of stairs. A few people look on dejectedly as they have surrendered the fight to reach the train. I launch off the stairs and begin a full sprint to the train’s nearest door along with a few others close behind me.
Victory! I made it! I am the first person waiting in front of the nearest door with a bunch of people behind me ready to take my place.
I watch relieved and happy as the doors open for my entrance. A large crowd of passengers empty out of the train car. As I wait, I start to feel a strong force on my back. A few people shove me forward and walk in the spaces passengers have left while exiting out.
It seems like patiently waiting for passengers to exit is not the easiest way to handle getting on a packed train. But I chose not to force through the crowd of exiting passengers like everyone else.
As the final set of passengers empty out of the car a woman, about thirty years old, rolls a hefty navy blue stroller, and tugs her daughter, about four years old, behind her. I loom over in front of the door realizing more than ever that I deserve a spot on this train.
The woman loudly babbles in Spanish as I step onto the train. She pushes forth with her stroller. I now realize I am standing in front of her daughter who is stuck in the train congested with new passengers.
Without a moment’s hesitation she yells, “How dare you step in front of ma daughta…How would you like it if I blocked you! You people are so obnoxious!”
It takes me a few seconds to become conscious that those words are for me. The blood rushes to the tip of my ears and my heart feels like it is about to jump out so she can step on it. I feel so horrible. Like an insensitive, obnoxious New Yorker that has no regard for children or their mothers.
The woman continues to call me names I cannot recall. She stays between the doors so she can amply shame me in front of the entire subway station. In a tiny split second, I was finally able to step into the train but right then an African-American man, about 6 feet tall, wearing long dreads and a black quilted bubble jacket, walks straight in front of me.
I thought he was just late in heading out of the train, but then I realize he is aiming in my direction.
I can’t get on the train. His body is pushing me back. My face is trapped in his black jacket. My eyes are buried in complete darkness. He grabs my shoulders and pushes me saying, “This is how it feels to be pushed Bitch.” The woman looks at me one last time and says, “Now she knows how it feels.” Less than a minute later, the woman rushes out of the departing train.
I finally enter the train. No one defends me. No one says a word. The doors close and I am on my way home.
Part of becoming a New Yorker means developing a consciousness about when is the right time to be pushy. There are a different set of rules in the concrete jungle. The law of the subway seems to be waiting to enter the train once all passengers have exited out. However in congested times, force seems to be the method in use by the majority. I patiently waited. And human nature lashed out on me.
So majority does rule.
But does that mean we should push everyone just because we all want to go home?
Yes and No. In this situation, the individual conscience is off. There are only two trains of thought.The passengers thinking “I need to get off. Now.” And the passengers boarding thinking, “I need to get on. Now.” And only one monster can win. Any individual caught acting out will be punished. Perhaps that was me.