The Meathead on the No. 1 Train

by

11/11/2007

Columbus Circle, 10019

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

During a packed, standing room only ride on an uptown No. 1 train, I tried to shut out the crowd, absorbing myself in the free AM New York newspaper I picked up that morning. Two men who were squeezed against each other began to argue. Their voices grew so alarmingly loud that I could no longer concentrate on my reading.

“Get your arm out of my face!”

“I told you, there’s no room to move at all. I had to miss several trains before I could get on this one.”

“Get out of my face, or I’ll make you.”

I looked up from my seat and saw a red-faced meathead with a thick, bullish neck. He was snarling at a smaller, nebbishy man wearing glasses, who argued nervously about a mile a minute. As their argument went in circles, the meathead’s whole body seemed to swell up like a soufflé ready to explode.

My fellow passengers and I looked on with concern, hoping someone else would say something to calm them down. Just when it looked like the meathead was about to lunge–and we’d be steamrolled by two men bouncing off the walls–the elderly woman sitting next to me tapped the nebbishy man on the shoulder and said, “Just don’t answer him.”

After a few protests, the smaller man kept his mouth shut, and we rode for a couple stops in peaceful silence, feeling relieved a violent brawl had been averted. This wise, frail woman in her seventies probably had a lot experience stopping squabbles between her children or grandchildren.

As the subway doors opened on Columbus Circle, the older woman rose up from her seat to leave. The meathead turned and shoved the smaller man so hard that he went crashing into the older woman and knocked her back into her seat. Everyone gasped. The smaller man apologized profusely as he helped the woman up again. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. The meathead disappeared out the door, grinning. No one was going to deny him the chance to unload his hostility on someone else. Being an efficient, multitasking meathead, he was able to punish both his opponents in one fell swoop.

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