Monday, July 29, 2013

What an Asshole.

Here is another chapter in the "things I've told some of you but will now flesh out for all the internet to see." This is a tale of a huge asshole.

It began last weekend, when after a couple days of rehearsing with the band, I needed to hop back on a Metro North train from New Haven, CT to take me home to Brooklyn. I had taken this trip several times before, and it's usually pretty uneventful. This time would be different! DUMDUMDUM... 

I arrived at the train station at about 6pm. I checked the schedule and saw the next train to Grand Central was at 6:27 on track 14. A slight wait, but no big deal. I headed through the tunnel, and up to track 14, whereupon I saw a train pulling into the station. "Awesome!" I thought, because although sometimes you get lucky like this, a lot of times the train doesn't arrive until a couple minutes before departure, so you're stuck standing on the platform for awhile in cold, or dark, or in this case heat. So yay! Now I could sit in an air conditioned car while I waited to leave. 

The train pulled in, paused for a beat, and then let all the passengers off. I like to sit near the front, so as I was moving up the platform, I did the awkward "try to walk past someone and pick the same side as them multiple times" dance at least 3 times before just standing the fuck still and waiting for the hordes to pass me by. Once the train was empty and the platform clear, I headed the rest of the way up towards the front, and hopped into the second car. As I strolled through the empty car to find my seat, the doors closed. "Hmm, weird" I thought. Then the doors opened back up. Was this to invite me back onto the platform? I paused, and listened for someone on the intercom to say "please step off the train", but didn't hear anything so I assumed the doors were staying open. It wasn't that long before departure I guess, so it made sense that they'd just let people board as they arrived. I walked up to the very front car, and had a seat. The doors closed again. Hmm. I remembered how sometimes the crew does this thing where they'll only open the cars in the middle, so I assumed because I'd gotten on the train fairly early that's what they were doing. The middle doors were probably still open. Secretly though, I was nervous that maybe all the doors were closed, and this train was going to leave. Maybe it had to pull onto a maintenance track, after having barely arrived in one piece. Maybe it was actually a different train that was slated to arrive a bit later that would actually be taking on passengers. But no! Nonsense! I thought. Nobody told me to get off. Every time I've ever stayed on a train when I wasn't supposed to, someone has made it very clear very quickly to get the hell off. That didn't didn't happen, and the train remained on the tracks for several more minutes, so I figured I was good to go. It was about 20 minutes to departure at this point, so I just pulled out my book and started reading, basking in the temporary capaciousness. 

I was a bit startled when the door opened up and a gentleman appeared. He locked the door behind him with a special key, so apparently he was the conductor or some other crew member. He walked to the front into the little conductor room, pulled a few switches or whatever it is these guys do, and walked back into the aisle, carrying himself with a bit of a surly disposition. I'm sitting maybe fifteen feet away from him, and despite him turning vaguely in my direction at some points, he didn't acknowledge me. I assumed he would and figured "good, if I shouldn't be here, he'll let me know." Sure enough, he spotted me with a very slight, but noticeable lurch to his step. His face was a mix of surprise, and angst, like he was about to drop trow and start jerking off or something, and he was imagining what would've happened if he'd gone through with his plan before he saw me. After staring at me like I was an alien for a bit, here is how our conversation went as closely as I can recall:

Him: They let you stay on the train?
Me: No, I'm actually on the next train out.
Him: And they let you stay on? 
Me: ...No..I just got on. 
Him: Oh..well you aren't supposed to be on the train if the conductor isn't on the train. 
Me: Oh sorry, I just got on when everyone else got off, and nobody said anything.

I looked at him expectantly. He said nothing. I think he had planned for his time in this car to be alone time. So since he was probably reluctant to even start a conversation, he certainly felt no obligation to end it with any sort of closure. A few seconds passed, and I shrugged.

And he went about his business. I watched him rhythmically move about the cabin with the poise of a man that had done this before and had only recently become aware that he was awfully tired of doing it. He made his adjustments to whatever, taking these big pieces of metal off the wall, fastening them back into place, and I wondered why he'd bothered to remove them in the first place. It was fairly silent, aside from his jingling keys, and his audible breathing. I took a moment to replay the conversation in my head, feeling vaguely unsettled by the way it ended. I scanned for incendiary undertones. Eh, he was a paltry fellow that seemed incapable of subterfuge. 

Anyway, the fact that he called what I was doing "staying on" suggested that this was indeed the next train out, and it wouldn't be pulling out of the station to be switched with the actual train or anything like that. If they had had plans to do that, surely he would've told me. I figured he must've realized me getting on the train early was an accident, and since this was the train that was going to be leaving anyway, no sense kicking me off. Besides, he was apparently one of the train crew, and now that he was on the train, I wasn't technically "on the train without the conductor" anymore was I? So I went back to reading my book. It was approaching 10 minutes before departure, and many passengers were accumulating out on the platform. I was surprised they hadn't let them on yet, and decided to crouch down in my seat a bit, lest they spot me and make a fuss. 

And then, the guy left the train. Hmm, guess he wasn't the conductor? Oh well, surely the real one would be arriving soon. 

Suddenly with just over 5 minutes to departure, my worst fear came true. I watched all of the passengers on the platform do an abrupt about face and walk to the other side. FUCK! They switched tracks on me! But WHY? There was a perfectly good train sitting on track 14! Just like the sign had said! "Oh well, guess I'll get off the train. There must be some button you can push to override the doors or something!" 


I was puzzled. I looked around for that mysterious train crew guy, but he was nowhere in sight. I walked to the other train doors. All equally closed. I walked to the next car. Although they were also just as closed, they felt extra closed, like the rubber was being squeezed to it's limit. Feeling perplexed and a bit agitated since the real train was LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES, I hit the "emergency intercom" button to get someone to open the doors. 

The instructions read: Push button, and wait for solid red light, then speak. Good, those instructions are easy to follow even while panicking! So I pushed the button and it blinked red. I guess when it turns solid, someone has acknowledged the call. Here's my impression of that stupid button:


I hung around long enough to be fairly confident that nobody was there to answer my distress call and that I would probably die alone on this train car. So I'm thinking "FUCK I'M TRAPPED FOREVER!" And I started darting between cars as fast as I could, because the faster you panic, the better your chances of escape. All the doors were still closed. Also, in these particular trains, every 3 cars or so, the doors between the cars go from small sliding doors, to big ass locked doors, which is what I was now met with. So I ran back and hit a different emergency intercom button because I dunno maybe they were wired to different speakers or some shit. I was kind of running out of options. BLINKBLINKBLINK with no answer AGAIN. My head started spinning. They were probably slowly sucking oxygen out of this train car too.

I thought about dialing 411 and getting the phone number for union station, but the clock was ticking and I didn't have time to navigate a stupid automated phone system, especially in my current adrenalized state, so I walked up to the glass on the doors, and started banging on them. Passengers walking up the platform would hopefully spot me, and get someone to let me out. Pretty quickly someone did spot me. I mouthed the words "HELP?!" as if I needed to say anything. Obviously I was on the wrong train, and needed to get off. The girl looked at me kind of puzzled, and sheepishly pointed ahead of her, probably wondering if she had just aided the possible escape of a serial killer. So I ran up to the next car, thinking maybe someone had opened a door up there. Well they were all still closed, but there was the train crew guy! PHEW. I got behind the door closest to him and banged on the glass. He looked up at me while on his phone, and although I couldn't hear him, he distinctly mouthed these words:

"That's your problem now."

Now I've been angry in my life before, very much so in fact in this story, but usually the anger is at a combination of things, or circumstances. Never have I felt such rage directed at such a singular thing: This Fucking Asshole. 

After I shook off the shock of his douchiness, I snapped back into action. He strolled away from me on the platform, but I would not be ignored. I followed him. I went to the next car, and pounded on the glass there. He kept walking. I followed again, and pounded again. He turned back in the other direction. I doubled back, and pounded the glass even HARDER. I wanted him to remember these pounds for the rest of his life. My hand still hurts from it. I was ready to break the fucking glass and deflect the inevitable punishment onto this guy since if he'd let me out like a decent person, I never would've had to break the glass. Despite my pounding and pounding, he continued to ignore me. Maybe he couldn't hear me through the several layers of dumb that surrounded his brain.

So I reflected. Dozens of thoughts clustered into my head in a matter of seconds and I'm gonna do my best to string that cluster out into a coherent thread. 

First, this had to end one way or another, and when it did, how would I ruin this man?

Second, did I deserve this somehow? Should I really have known better? When those doors first closed, and then opened back up, should I have known that meant "get out?" Maybe. But the combined lack of announcement to exit, the fact that I was on the train on track 14 that was said to be leaving soon, and the train crew guy not telling me to get off, I think despite maybe thinking I had bent the rules a bit, staying on the train wasn't unreasonable.

And third, what was this guy's problem?! For him to trap me on this train, knowing full well he had the capability to let me out, means I must've done something to really piss him off. But during our brief conversation, he may have seemed a bit miffed, but I'd assumed that was because he hated his life or something. He didn't snap at me, didn't seem all that angry, and I stress once again, he did not tell me to get off the train. So why the total 180? Did I do something that didn't sit right with him, and after ruminating for a bit, only then did he realize how angry he was with me? What did I say? Just a few basic sentences that fairly clearly laid out how I ended up on the train, and then I sat there reading my book. Nothing objectively assholish about that I don't think. Did I make a face without realizing it? Did he not like my tone? My posture? No. I hadn't done anything wrong. Maybe this went deeper.

Maybe when I got on the train early, and got my pick of whatever seat I wanted before anyone else, he realized I'd cheated the system. Perhaps watching me do so brought on a flood of painful memories for him. He simultaneously remembered all of the times in his life he'd ever waited in line while other people got better seats than him. Dozens and dozens of bus stations. Train stations. Airports. Always getting the shitty seat. Maybe that's why he ended up working as a train crew member. Now he would always have a seat to himself on the train. But then I showed up, and despite having not payed my dues, having not gone to train school(?), and not working my way up the corporate ladder, I'd found a way to get a seat all to myself. The fact that I had found this shortcut made him furious. This workaround that had always been so elusive to him, and I had found it so easily. He thought of all his failures in life. I became the personal embodiment of anyone that had ever wronged him. He needed justice, so he trapped me on the train, with only minutes before departure. I would watch all the passengers climb in, the doors would close a mere fifteen feet from me, and I would watch it pull away, trapped behind the glass of the train that was not to be. 

So I yelled. I knew nobody was listening, and it was clear that these doors were quite soundproof. So I yelled and yelled and pounded the glass more and more. He continued to ignore me and ignore me and ignore me. I became a caged beast, reduced to only my primal urges. I took one final stroll to the front car of the train and threw my arms up in defeat. It was 6:25. The doors of the other train would be closing very soon. I put my hands on my hips, eyes wide, breaths heavy and deliberate. I was starting to fantasize about the terrible ways I would make this man's life terribly inconvenient for awhile. I turned..

And the guy was inside the train, one car up. He was going to let me out!? I guess he had the tiniest shred of decency in him, and realized "holy shit if I actually let the train leave without this guy I'm a much much much bigger asshole than I imagined him to be." After all, what if I had something extremely important to go to? For all he knew I was meeting someone in the hospital! 

I made eye contact with him, and he made a douchey face while yelling something. I was behind 2 soundproof doors, so obviously I couldn't hear him. I made a probably equally douchey face while making a flailing hand gesture that tried to communicate "I can't hear you idiot". I walked through the doors to the next car as he was in the middle of his shouty lesson:


But I was in no fucking mood. I stopped him right there. Foul language ahead:


I'm amazed I didn't try to break his face. I felt pretty self-righteous for a bit, thinking "what gives him the right to trap someone on the train like that? Who is HE to teach someone a lesson about proper rules of the train this way, when I didn't even realize I was breaking them? Nobody told me not to get on the train, and when he had a chance to inform me of the error politely, and ask me to leave the train,he did not." Instead he assumed I got on the train early to piss him off and took it personally. He made me think, up until the very last minute, that I would miss my train. How long had he planned this? Was he alerted via some secret earpiece (that he probably felt all smug about having) that the train was switching, and that's why he got off the train? Did he have a chance to warn me at that point and instead took it upon himself to enforce the rules in the very worst possible way?  

He continued his rant with NO! YOU WAS TOLD NOT TO GET ON THE TRAIN BLAH BLAH BLAH I'M A GIANT DUMBASS, and saying some more of the wrongest of things that are wronger than wrong. Why was he saying I was told that? Didn't he remember not telling me that? Didn't I tell him nobody said anything? Didn't he remember talking with me, letting me sit there for several minutes as he went about his business? Would I just sit there like that if he'd told me to get off the train? I briskly walked across the platform into the thankfully still open doors of the correct train. The doors closed fairly soon afterwards, and I gave the guy the finger all the way out of the station. 

People I ended up sitting near probably overheard a bit of the conversation, and I got a few perplexed looks, but I didn't share the story with anyone. I was too busy fuming. I was literally shaking with rage. It took me half the train ride to calm back down.

And then occurred a brilliant display of the universe balancing itself back out. 

Nobody came to collect my ticket. The tickets are good in either direction for two months, and I will certainly use the ticket soon.

I rode the train for free that day. 

Man, fuck that guy.