Still Standing



Neighborhood: Park Slope, Subway

It was not so long ago that I would ordinarily drive into Manhattan from my home in Park Slope. However, I had a rule that I wouldn’t take my car to anywhere above 23rd Street. About five years ago, because of an increase in traffic, I moved my boundary to 14th Street. But recently, things have gotten so out of hand, I don’t’ take it past Union Street in Park Slope. That’s about 78 feet from where my car stays nestled in the garage beneath my apartment building.

So I’m taking the subway a lot more than I ever had. The train gets me where I want to go almost always with less stress and time than had I driven. Apart from the ignominy I feel when I’m sometimes offered a seat, it’s all good. And, when I have to change trains and there’s a connecting one waiting, I’m as excited as if I had won the lottery. (At least, I think that’s about as happy I would feel with a seventy million dollar payday.)

But a few months ago something happened that almost soured me on my romance with the MTA. My girlfriend and I were coming home from seeing a play in midtown and were on a train that was reasonably crowded. I was standing, facing forward, when the train lurched ahead before I had grabbed onto a pole; I staggered backwards about five or six falling steps before landing in the lap of some passenger who caught me as if I were a routine pop-up.

The man (he looked to be in his forties) into whose lap I fell couldn’t have been nicer. But after the first few, “are you okay”s it occurred to me that he was being overly solicitous because he saw me as old and it started to really irritate me. After about the fifth inquiry, I lost it and barked at him. “As I said, I’m fine! Maybe just a bit tired from playing three hours of singles earlier today against someone a bit younger than you are.”  

This episode was pretty embarrassing, so we got off at the next stop and moved to another train car where hopefully, word hadn’t yet spread. The rest of our trip was unremarkable, and I had more or less forgotten about the incident until about a week ago when something similar and equally disturbing happened.

I was sitting on the train lost in thought when, out of the blue, a young man, who must have lost his balance, fell hard on me and jabbed his elbow into my forehead almost knocking me out. All with no warning whatsoever. This was no pop-up; more a line drive shot back at the pitcher’s head. Although stunned, I could still hear this guy apologizing, “I’m so sorry Sir, I’m so sorry.” Then, “Sir, I think you’re bleeding!” Then again with the, “Are you okay” to go along with the “Sir.” It was almost too much to bear. While I wasn’t really okay, I managed to shoot back at him, “Yeh, I’m fine, just fine; maybe just a bit tired from the marathon I ran this morning which I followed with a couple of sets of . . . ” Well, you get the idea.


Neil Stein formerly owned a real estate office in Park Slope and is now retired. He is also a writer who is the sole correspondent for the blog,

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