I was heading to Prospect Park last Friday night on the almost-as-dreaded-as-the-L F Train when a series of unusual events took place.
It began as a very usual event at East Broadway. I hate reinforcing stereotypes, but it’s a well-known fact that most residents of Chinatown simply ignore the rules and courtesies of the subway. Friday evening was no different. A middle-aged Asian woman dashed down the stairs into the train and held the door while she waited for her other middle-aged friend to mosey down the stairs behind her to get on the train.
This event caught the attention of a rather crazy older man on the train. Perhaps “crazy” is too extreme. I’ll go with “slightly imbalanced” instead. Actually, we’ll call him “The Enforcer” from here forward. By the time it was clear that she was holding the doors, this man turned to the Asian woman and began yelling at her.
“Don’t hold the doors,” he demanded. She continued to hold them. He raised his voice. “DO NOT HOLD THE DOORS!” Still, she persisted, ignoring The Enforcer. “CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN?” From his seat, he pointed up towards the sign at the top of every subway door that says “Do Not Hold Doors.” She still held them. “STOP HOLDING THE DOORS! YOU’RE HOLDING EVERYONE UP!” The Enforcer flailed his arms in the air until the woman’s friend made it into the train. The doors closed, the women sat down, and the train pulled away.
But the craz – err, imbalanced – man persisted. He got up from his seat and confronted the two women. It was clear to everyone on the train, him included, that his message wasn’t getting through to the women because of a language barrier. “LOOK. AT. THE. SIGN.” The Enforcer snapped, now putting his finger directly on the sign on the doors. “DO NOT HOLD THE DOORS!” Everyone on the train cackled at his booming voice. In fact, the sound of his voice alone made a baby in our car cry.
Two stations later, at Jay Street, a young man became another unfortunate victim of The Enforcer after holding the door for two seconds to get into the train. “Don’t hold the doors,” he shouted. “You’re holding up the train! It says it right there. Don’t hold the doors!” This man’s efforts to ignore The Enforcer were fruitless, much to the amusement of everyone else in the train.
A woman who got on at Jay Street with the door-holder sighed at the man’s shouting. The couple sitting next to her chuckled. “You think this is bad? You should’ve heard him in Manhattan!”
He kept quiet for the rest of the ride out to Prospect Park, but the conductor’s frustration boiled over a couple stops later at Carroll Street:
“This is Carroll Street. This is a Coney Island-bound F Train… the next stop is Smith & Ninth Street. Stand clear of the closing doors, please.”
[Subway doors remain open for at least 45 seconds.]
“IS IT TOO DIFFICULT TO MAKE A DECISION WHETHER THIS IS YOUR STOP OR NOT? STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS, PUH-LEEZE!”
I can’t really blame them. The Enforcer and The Conductor were just both looking out for us lowly passengers, held hostage on a stalled-out train by a few inconsiderate straphangers. They just had no tact at all. At least we know their hearts were in the right place.