I don’t know about you but the past few months seem to me to have been full of even more bad news than usual. I was, and am, devastated by the stories and photographs coming out of Ukraine and this senseless war brought on by an autocrat. Add to that, there have been some extremely disturbing stories of New Yorkers who’ve been shot or knifed for no reason at all. And now we have the horrific news of the racist shooting at the supermarket in Buffalo and the unbelievable shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It’s interesting that Covid has been pushed out of the front part of my brain now, where it occupied a center seat for the past 2 years. I suppose that’s one benefit from all this otherwise gutting news.
I think often of how my parents must have felt watching the world spin out of control during the Great Depression and, later, Hitler’s advance through Europe. I suppose they did not have the relentless 24-hour news cycle and all the devices which keep us in constant touch with the headlines.
I have a group of friends who recently shared how they cope with all this. The answers were interesting. One person said she only listens to one newscast a day, the evening news at 11:00 pm. Another said she takes very long walks. A third said she cries. At this time, none of those remedies are ones I’ll adopt. But I don’t have any others. So my fate is simply to be very upset and wonder how this gets better.
Whenever possible, avoid rush hours on the subways in New York City if you’re a senior citizen!
One of the luxuries of retirement is that your schedule is much more flexible. At the end of your day, you no longer need to stream out of a work place with hordes of other humans. You no longer need to feel the press of humanity pouring into the bowels of the NYC subway system. You can avoid the frenzy of the turnstiles and the packed platforms. Most significantly, you can pass on the experience of being squeezed together like a sardine with sometimes smelly and occasionally rude people on a train that lurches or stalls. Except when you can’t.
As luck would have it, I’m taking a terrific class in midtown this spring that regrettably meets from 2 until 5 pm. So, once a week, I’m living all of the above subway experiences in the Times Square subway station and on the #2 Express or #1 Local trains uptown.
If there is ever a reason to stay as physically fit as possible after retirement, it’s for when you can’t avoid using the NYC subway system during rush hour.
What’s there to say about the oaf who takes up 2 seats on the city’s subways and spreads wide his legs, forcing people seated on either side of him to squeeze themselves together to avoid any contact. Not much.
As a matter of self-preservation, it’s never wise to pick a fight with any of these characters by, say, asking if he could please sit in the one seat to which his single-swipe-Metro card fare would entitle him. I actually think there should be a variant of congestion pricing for the NYC subways, wherein people who do take up 2 seats pay twice the fare. Think about that, Andy Byford, to help put the MTA’s budget in the black.
I’ve also observed that the typical manspreader has an outward demeanor that looks as though he’d plunge a knife into you, for no particular reason. So for that reason I’d recommend taking the low road and be prepared to see how thin you can make yourself if you’re determined to sit or, at worst, just stand. I’ve often stood squarely in front of the 2-seat-occupying-clod, who’s often decades younger than me. Any personal satisfaction comes from just giving the offender dirty looks. I grant you it’s not a great solution, but it’s something to allow me to vent my spleen in an otherwise win-less situation on a New York City subway train.
Every once in a while, someone offers me a seat on the subway as I stand hovering over him. I always say, “Thanks so much” and immediately sit down as soon as the good samaritan vacates the coveted space. However, if I had a nickel for every friend who has admitted to being thrown into an existential crisis by the offer, I’d have several nickels.
It seems that in some people’s thinking, being offered a seat by a younger person is tantamount to looking old, even if you haven’t self-identified as an elderly person. One friend said that she got on a subway one day when she thought she looked “pretty good”, was offered a seat and promptly felt miserable and insulted. She declined the offer. I told her she was pretty crazy to do that but apparently her self-image and self-esteem had been dealt a blow.
I suppose we all have our flash points. I was insulted this afternoon when I gave a dollar to a middle-aged subway musician who had lugged a keyboard aboard the #1 train and asked for money after he played. As I handed him the dollar he said, “Thanks, grandma.” Now, I happen to be a grandmother and am delighted when my grandchildren, all 5 and under, call me “Grammy”. But I didn’t feel old enough to be this middle-aged guy’s grandmother. I was going to ask for my dollar back.