Either riding the subway is getting weirder, or I'm just noticing it more.
Scene No. 1
The train: The Uptown 6
The time: Weekday, around 6:30 p.m.
While standing in the indented well between seat benches, near the sliding doors, I'm waiting to get to 42nd Street so I can change for the 7. Metallica's "Unforgiven" comes on the iPod. We reach one of the local stops and the doors slide open on the opposite side. In come two black men, one older with a graying faint beard and a cap, slight; the other heavier-set, with a black nylon do-rag (I can't help it, I see those and I hear the convenience store guy in "Raising Arizona" tell Nicolas Cage: "Boy, you got a panty on yo' head").
Do-rag is on the verge of passing out. His face looks swollen, and though he's clasping a yellow convenience bag that looks new, he's pretty rough all over. Scratches on his hands, generally slovenly appearance. Hat guides them to the pole between the two sliding doors and spends the next several stops insisting that Do-rag not fall asleep, which he is on the verge of doing. At first Hat is just grabbing on the guy and pulling him up against the pole; as this fails to work and the heftier Do-rag continues to sag, Hat's hand slips and Do-rag's head whomps on the pole. This gives Hat an idea, and for a good stop or two he keeps Do-rag awake by regularly pounding his head into the pole. Not like "hey, tap, tap," but whomp. And whomp. And whomp.
I kept wondering if Hat was preventing Do-rag from sleeping because he was OD'ing and they were on their way to Lenox Hospital or something, but frankly, I've got no idea. I exited at 42nd Street, and they went on. Whomp.
Scene No. 2
The train: 6 downtown
The time: Around 10:30 a.m.
I'm reading my Stephen King book when I hear some clicking, plastic on plastic. It's got an almost musical, yet completely annoying, quality, and doesn't just happen once or twice. Finally I get up and look: A girl is sitting against the wall of the end of the subway car, swishing her braided hair (with white beads on the end) back and forth. She doesn't appear to have any musical device attached to her ears; she's getting this song from some deeper core. She's also wearing squared-off sunglasses, and I have a moment of Stevie Wonder imagery happening. But then a stop or two later she gets up and strolls down the train car, half-dancing, completely oblivious.