Seen on the Subway: So There’s a Man Living on the L Train

Empire state of homelessness?

I have a peculiar relationship with New York City subways. When I first moved to to NYC last fall, I was beyond relieved to escape DC’s embarrassing metro system, which boasts cleanliness thanks to its strict “no eating policy” but remains unreliable and a constant source of frustration. In NYC, the trains run 24/7 and allow food and drink on the train, so you can count on the subway to take you where you need to go regardless of the hour or your condition.

Of course, all of this has enabled many people to get a little too comfortable on the subway. Last night, I stepped into a fairly deserted L train car on my way back to Brooklyn. It only took a few seconds for me to realize why there were so few people on board. The entire train was rank, all thanks to a homeless man who had made himself at home in the seating area. I consider him an L train regular now, as I’ve seen him alternate train cars since December. The cold weather will do that to you if you have nowhere else to go.

Nevertheless, the smell was too much for me and another young lady, who suggested we exit the car and catch the next train. Once we got to the platform, the girl explained that she’d recently had a similar experience in which she sat beside a man who was simultaneously vomiting on himself and chugging a bottle of whiskey. We couldn’t decide whether we were impressed or horrified by his ability to drink and throw up at the same time. I certainly don’t have that skill, but probably for the better.

Though the L train inhabitant doesn’t exactly boost the travel experience, people have notoriously done a lot worse in NYC subways. A few weeks ago, passengers stepped off the L train only to find a severed head sandwiched between the platform and train car. Over the weekend, a man living in an F train station died in a fire, which he appeared to have caused. Then there are the mole people, impoverished societal rejects who are said to be a part of entire underground communities. A few months ago, a young woman seemed to come on to me on the A,C,E train platform and insinuated that I should take her home. From there on out, I made it a point to pretend to be a foreigner anytime strangers on the subway approached. I did this the other night.

While I wish the MTA would make more of an effort keeping the subway system clean and safe, I still prefer public transportation over taxis any day. Besides, where else could I get these kind of stories?


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