I love riding the R train because of the complete lack of other people using it. Even though it’s one of the slowest lines with some of the oldest trains, its frequent stops and guaranteed room for sitting make it perfect for playing some New Super Mario Bros. on my Nintendo DS on the way home.
Yesterday afternoon made me question my love, though. When I stepped into a car near the end, I was met with the overpowering stench of excrement. Terrible smells are par for the course in New York, so I tried not to overreact and took a seat. But the odor was SO BAD. I looked around me and noticed people covering their noses with their hands, burying their faces in their coat lapels, so I knew it wasn’t just me.
Then I looked around some more and noticed that everyone was crowded at one end of the train car. Some boys had rushed by me in a hurry to get to the opposite end of the car as I’d taken my seat, but I didn’t think anything about it until I realized that literally everyone but me and a man across the aisle were huddled together against the door leading to the next car. I craned my neck to see what they’d all run from and realized that a person, a man, was lying down on one of the sets of seats at the far end of the car. Evidently his stench was so overwhelming that it’d filled the entire place.
I like to consider myself an understanding and nonjudgemental person, so I decided I would stay planted where I was, showing the world that I accept homeless people and know that they can’t help the lot they were given. If fat people can take up two seats, by God, filthy people can stink up entire cars! But then I started thinking about the canvas bag full of clean clothes I had with me and how all of them were going to be soaked through with the worst smell imaginable by the time I got off at Union Square.
So at the next stop, I hustled out of the car, onto the platform, and into the next car with everyone else. I yelled to a man who was entering the foul car, “DON’T GO IN THERE!”, and he scampered along with the rest of us. From there, it was as if we had all survived a natural disaster and were brought closer together because of it. People were being polite and actually laughing with each other, and the boys who had rushed by me in the smelly car now stood in the aisle of this clean car and watched people at every stop as they entered the realm of the rankness, scrunched up their noses, and ran back out onto the platform.
When I got off at 14th Street, I walked past the cars and saw that all but one of them were being filled like normal by commuters. And there in the seat where I had originally sat was one lonely woman, mired in the stench, looking as if she was about to pass out.
(x-posted to my Examiner)