Wednesday, December 03, 2014

More Commuter Neurosis

Recently I rode the 7:44 PM train home. I sat in the six-seater, across from two other guys. The six-seater is not my favorite place to perch but at least I wasn't standing. The six-seater offers its own series of neuroses, but that's not the subject of this post. Today, we'll talk about the neurosis of an "if you see something, say something" moment.

Are you familiar with this slogan? It came into use after 9/11. Our safety czars (tsars?) sought ways to keep public transportation safe. When they realized they had no clue how to go about this, they came up with the phrase to a) keep people alert, and b) spread the blame if something catastrophic should take place.

Here's what happened.

As we left Penn Station, a guy carrying an opaque plastic bag walked by. He stopped, put the bag down in the seat next to me, and then kept walking. 

Whoa. You don't leave unattended packages on the train! That's Commuting 101! I sat there looking at the bag, which had the "Duane Reade" pharmacy logo on it. What could be in it? A bomb? Sarin gas? Ricin? A deodorant stick? Where did he go? The obvious answer would be the lav, but I couldn't say with certainty.

10 minutes went by, and no sign of the guy. The two guys sitting across from me were completely oblivious. Were they part of the plot? Were they planning something sinister? 

I see something. Should I say something?

I thought about looking into the bag. But what if it was booby-trapped? What if there was key evidence in there? What if it was the mystery glowing item that Marsellus Wallace wanted back in "Pulp Fiction?" What if it was a jar of aspirin from the Analgesics aisle? I can't go through the bag. I'd look like a yenta for peering into the bag.

I see something. Should I say something?

Finally he returned. I took a good look at him, he looked like a cross between one of my high school gym teachers (Mr. Eccher, for those of you who go back that far with me) and Jeffrey Tambor. Not exactly terrorist material. He started speaking to the two other guys and me, and he was completely incoherent.

Or was he coherently speaking a foreign language? Did he just tell me in some foreign language to prepare to die?

I see something. Should I say something?

After he took out a beer
He went into the bag. The moment of truth. What's he going to take out? A weapon? Flintstone vitamins?

He pulled out a 16 Oz. Coors Light. He had three more in the bag. Do they sell beer at Duane Reade?

What did I see? I saw a drunk guy who went to relieve himself and make room for more cheap beer. This guy didn't need me to call the police to say something. He needed me to call him a taxi.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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  1. Had you considered a deodorant stick made of ricin that sprays sarin gas when it explodes? :-)

    1. Thanks for that thought. Now I have something else to consider.