sad bits of nyc

After the most 'frantic' day yet at the agency (i made lunch at 4pm) I was ready to find a quiet corner and sleep on the way home. Alas, the recent "C" train debacle, which burned up a switch/control room, has left my travel to/from work options more limited. I now have to take at least 3 trains, and the main option is running at 1/3 of it's former capacity, so things are SLOW and crowded. Imagine my delight while watching the E train screech to a halt in front of me, to see a very UNcrowded car slide past and stop a few yards down. I bolted for that door, rather than the one in front of me, hoping for a seat and a snooze. Alas when I ducked in, it only took about 3 seconds for me to discover the reason for the spaciousness ... it smelled like an overflowing outhouse. Not just a whiff, but an overpowering stench. The first instinct of course was to try to determine the source and get away from it. Many ppl were standing even tho the seats were vacant, so I assumed that some seat somewhere had been used as a toilet, but found no visible sign of it. Rather than describe the hunt and the suspicious sticky spots on the floor (which are almost always there for one reason or another ...) I determined that anything had to be better than where I was standing, and so moved down the car and sat down between a stooped older woman and a lady with her scarf wrapped around her nose. I got a few strange looks, which made me suspect I'd moved closer to the source rather than further, but it smelled a little less(?) so I stayed. I began to suspect it was the older woman next to me, seeing her proximity to the largest spot on the floor. What do you do in that situation? Get up and move, ask if she needs help ... "excuse me are you the one that stinks, do you have a problem?" I sat there wondering, never sure it was her until she got up and got off the train. She seemed to make her decision to get up rather uncertainly and yet suddenly, and turned and disappeared. Again I can't bring myself to describe the sight, but there was no doubt at all that it had been a long time since she'd used a toilet or indeed had any control over her bodily functions. Then the questions really started circling my head ... was she a homeless woman who didn't have a place to go? She had only a small plastic bag on her lap. Did she have alzheimers and had gotten lost on the subway, and was too scared/disoriented to find her way home? In retrospect she was one of the saddest and most pitiful things I've seen since moving here, and yet I didn't suspect it until she got up and left. What would I do differently next time? I don't really know, perhaps ask her name and get her talking. Hmmmm.

The second sad bit wasn't as sad in the same way, but we snuck out for a bit of chinese food tonight, and on the way home passed the only transvestite homeless (wo)man I've ever met ... cheerful as usual and commented on michael's moustache. Michael passed over a couple quarters, and I remembered that Michael said that same man had been begging there back when he went to Pratt over 10 years ago. 10+ years begging in the same spot. Enjoy the cheerfulness actually, and I suppose if he's still there he must have a pretty good gig going, but to still be begging on the streetcorner after that many years seems mighty depressing. Douglas wanted to know what that lady said, Michael answered but decided leave the explanation of how that wasn't exactly a 'lady' for another day :)

SAJ's post was sad today too, got me musing a bit.