Wednesday, August 03, 2005

SUSPICIOUS OF SUSPICIOUS

Last week Dan Barry wrote an article for the New York Times titled, 'What Does Suspicious Look Like?'. The article was interesting however it was the title that grabbed my attention.

I had just been thinking the same thing myself when riding the morning subway to work. It's true. What does suspicious look like and more importantly how will I know exactly what to look for when it arrives? You have to understand something. I live in New York. I ride the train every day with thousands of freaks - me counted among them. Take last week for example where I was faced with the most random combination of people: a man dressed like Richard Simmons reading a book titled, 'Potty Training: Easy as 1, 2 and 3", a Russian man with a bulbous nose and pocked face clutching a bug zapper on his lap, a Mexican guy with a giant stick full of multi-colored cotton candy, a transvestite resembling Mrs. Doubtfire, a homeless man with no arms or teeth holding a dirty Dunkin' Donuts cup under his chin while groaning, 'I'm hung-eee...I'm home-ess...' and a woman dripped in gold jewelry with a tiny rat of a dog in her purse wearing once of those elaborate hats women in England wear to weddings. Did they look suspicious? Yes. In a dangerous kind of way? No.

Last night on my way home however, I couldn't take my eyes off the guy sitting across from me. I first noticed him on the platform where he clutched a black backpack and zipped and unzipped it several times to peek inside. He also muttered to himself and giggled. The first thing I thought to myself was, 'oh great.'

He then boarded the train and looked around - eyes darted and sweat and more sweat poured off his temples. He continued to peek inside the backpack several more times and zipped and unzipped it over and over again. To make it worse he took out a mini-bible and chanted some prayer while giggling and by this time myself (and a few passengers around me) became visibly uncomfortable. Was this guy going to blow himself up or just nuts? More importantly, was I slowly turning into one of those paranoid New Yorkers? The kind that can barely step outside because the evil news media has somehow crept inside my brain and filled me with fear? At this rate I'd soon be one of those people I despise - New Yorkers that hold their ears when the subway car pulls into the station or when a fire truck drives past.

Despite all this rationale I did what any paranoid, overly active imagination type person like myself would do - I got off at Delancy. The minute I did this and my body was overcome by the suffocating heat from the platform I thought to myself, 'oh great.'

While I waited for the next, much more 'safe' train (?!?) to come along, I was surrounded by an old man that danced around me clutching two bananas and a woman in a wig with a peg leg wearing a spraypainted 'Selena' T-shirt who sang loudly and off key to 'Smooth Operator' on her headphones. By the time the second train came along fifteen minutes later I just felt foolish. There was no way someone like me would EVER be able to predict what was and was not suspicious. Ever.

Banana man, Smooth Operator peg leg and I finally boarded the F train. This time I sat across from someone I couldn't help but feel suspicious of despite everything I'd just reflected on. It was a Joe Wall Street guy with an 'American Psycho' look in his eyes. He sat with one hand that clutched his hard, black leather gym bag and with the other...he played with his balls.

19 Comments:

At 11:40 AM, Blogger ChrisG said...

maybe the backpack guy stole the tiny dog from the lady in the big hat and was giggling because he was looking at the dog in his bag but sweating because he feared he'd be caught for stealing it. guess those bag searches aren't having their intended effect.

 
At 12:12 PM, Blogger ica said...

Don't let yourself live in terror!

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Kiki said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with being precautious. That guy sounded totally creepy!

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger Robert said...

i'm one of those people who hold their ears when an ambulance drives by...but baltimore trucks are louder, i swear! ok, so i'm a puss.

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger jayKayEss said...

Wow, sounds like the F is edging out the JMZ for the title of "most freak-filled."

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger beth said...

After all of my years in New York, I now know to trust my fear instincts. You'll never know if they were always correct, but, who cares? I know they've kept me out of trouble.

I do think it's important to differentiate, though, from generalized anxiety/predjudice and honest instincts. I think it's a fine tuned thing and it takes a while in a place like NY to develop.

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger pinkpelvis said...

i don't know, i feel like paranoia might be something that seeps into new yorkers via the water. i've started checking the freezers of the guys i date the first time i go over to their houses for body parts (on my roommate's suggestion). i'm not kidding.

 
At 3:50 AM, Blogger Plantation said...

People are interesting, aren't they? They may be suspicious but at least they give us something creative to write about.

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger tim said...

You know I sometimes miss New York after reading this tale. Sometimes minor daily occurences add zest to life.

 
At 6:24 PM, Blogger Scotty said...

Great story! I feel the same way on our MARTA (ATL's subway) frequently.

One thing: it would be "I" not "myself", IMO.

 
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