May 19, 2013
Thursday, 19 March 2009 09:13
At 9:24 last Wednesday morning on Track 18, just as I was walking into Grand Central Terminal, I became a new man, a changed man, a different man.
You see, at that precise moment, for the first time in my life, I started swearing at a complete stranger.
Does New York do this to everyone?
What a terrible transformation after a mere nine months of working in Manhattan. Swearing because I was an hour late for work after my fourth torturous train ride in a row. Swearing because I couldn’t get around some poor woman, who was hobbling along the platform.
When I realized what I’d done, I wanted to fall down on the floor and sob, “What the bleep have I turned into???”
I despise big city rudeness, but I’ve become what I loathe. It’s as if I’m the character in Kafka’s novel who undergoes a metamorphosis into a cockroach — not just any roach, but one of those hideous Big Apple roaches.
That morning was my fourth day of pain on Metro-North. The first day, 15 trains were canceled because of snow; the second day, there was no heat or lights; the third day, there was “police activity,” the fourth day, we lost power and had to sit in limbo, waiting for someone to put us out of our misery. By then, I was on the verge of complete hysteria because humankind was not meant to endure such chronic indignity.
When the conductor said, “Thank you for your patience. We apologize for the inconvenience. Have a great rest of the day,” I lost control.
Clearly, the places where we live and work transform us, and very often, New York City seems to conspire against kindness.
Sometimes when I get to work it’s a struggle just to say “Good morning.” I race up the escalator, and I race down the escalator, grumbling at people who block the left-hand passing lane.
“Get out of the bleepin’ way!” I want to yell.
Then, there are the nitwits who stand in the center of the sidewalk talking on their cell-phones and blocking pedestrian traffic like police barricades, not to mention the ones who wander blindly through the terminal like zombies while they text-message or take pictures.
“Watch where you’re bleepin’ going!”
The breaking point came Friday when a woman squeezed into the seat next to me and reeked of so much perfume she smelled like she’d been held hostage at Sephora. I started sneezing and wheezing and wanted to yell, “Lady! Do you know how much you stink?!?”
I certainly don’t want to change into an evil, crazed man about to burst a blood vessel. I want to go back to being the syrupy, kind, nice, gentle wimp I’ve been all my life. Sweet — that’s what I want to be. And yet, I feel myself being pulled away from those core values as the world gnaws at my serenity.
Help me! Somebody, save me! Is anybody there??? Bleep … bleep…
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