||I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.
prompt: write about a thing that happened to you while you were using public transportation.
the new york city subway is an absolute hellhole.
no, i’m not kidding. it’s really, truly awful. it’s not the dirt or the homeless people, though both exist in spades. it’s not the fact that it can take you an hour-ish to go ten miles, or that sometimes when it brakes you think your train is going to hop right off the tracks.
it is a hellhole for the sheer fact that so much humanity is packed into such a tiny space and my god, people have no home training.
i have a ton of peeves on the train, and i won’t even call them pet peeves because they’re NOT – that makes it sound like they’re quirky and individual to me and basically, i just want people to have manners and a middling standard of decorum. i don’t like people who play their music out loud. i don’t like people who use crappy iphone headphones meaning they’re essentially playing their music out loud. i don’t like dudes who spread their legs open as far as they can go. i don’t like people who jam their elbow into my waist. but i really do not like people who hug the pole, or use it as their own personal leaning support.
a couple of years ago i had to get rid of my car. it was in impound (again) and it was getting incredibly expensive to maintain it, plus it was probably falling apart because it had only cost me $900 from some guys i did not really know. i had decided to junk it; i did not have the wherewithal or knowledge or lack of conscience necessary to sell it, in the condition it was in. but first i had to get it out of impound. for the second time.
in the city, your car gets impounded when you’ve amassed $350 or more in tickets and they’ve gone unpaid for a while. you need to go to an Office (which is not at all conveniently located) to pay your tickets, their late fees, the tow fee, and various other Fees. it ends up costing about $1,000. i swear to god, subway cars should be made of platinum for what the city collects in parking fines, but, anyway. so you go to the Office and you give them all your money and then you get some Paperwork and you can go to the impound lot and retrieve your car. the particular impound lot where my car was located was about a mile walk from any subway in an industrial section of brooklyn. the first time i went, the bouncer chastised me for not taking a cab from the subway station. this time, he just came with me.
i have extraordinary anxiety about money – and you’ll say, but dominique, if you have such anxiety about money, why did you let your parking tickets sit for so long? and i will tell you that sometimes i deal with this anxiety by shoving a problem in a corner, sticking my fingers in my ears, squinching my eyes shut and shouting lalalalala and hoping it goes away. i am slowly learning that it doesn’t. in any case, i was REALLY not happy to have just given the city all my money and i was even less happy because i had no idea how junking a car worked or how long i’d be sitting in front of the impound lot after rescuing my car or if anyone would even come and i’d have to drive it back (and i was convinced it was going to blow up or something). basically, a host of unknowns plus emptying my bank account equaled a very frazzled person.
the bouncer and i are finding our appropriate train and i am in tears walking down the train platform. i get into a yelling match with some teenagers who were horsing around (ohmygod i am ninety years old), but they nearly pushed me onto the tracks. we board the train we need to be on, and it is quite empty. there are lots of places to stand and hold on to a pole. there is one pole that has a man hugging it, with his hood up. you know, the casual lean, wrapping an arm around. and i am NOT HAVING IT. i march up and tap him on the shoulder, saying excuse me. no response. i tap again, harder, say excuse me again. no response. i tap again, even harder, and the tone of my excuse me has become maybe a little shrill. and it is just kind of registering that i am making relatively rough physical contact with a stranger who is larger than me. the man sloooooowly starts swinging around, and i see that he has headphones in, and he is really not appreciating my interruption to his day. i do not care. he removes one earbud and glares down at me.
“excuse me! i’d like to be able to hold on.”
and guys, i am not kidding when i say he took my wrist and placed my hand on the pole, said, “so hold on then,” and i almost 100% lost my shit. i think the bouncer did not see this happen because i’m fairly sure he would not let a stranger touch me, and if he did see it, well, brb, i’ve got to go have a fight now. i snap back, “I’D LIKE TO HOLD ON WITHOUT TOUCHING YOU.”
it was at this point that the bouncer stepped over and firmly said, “honey, you can hold on to this other pole right here,” and the pole he was referencing was empty, and he was right. there was no reason to start a fight with a large hooded stranger man over a pole that i did not need. so i moved, and then just started yelling at the bouncer for interrupting my perfectly justified argument.
it was the principle of the matter, you know?
and in case you are wondering, i successfully retrieved my car and gave it to a nice man with a tow truck, and he gave me $200 cash, and then i went to a really good italian restaurant.
(nb: someday i will also tell you the story of the time i called a lady on the bus a see you next tuesday.)