On The Subway



The Street Hustle


I had to go to JFK today for a job interview, Terminal 5 to be exact. Jet Blue, noticing the delays that have been rampant, has decided to open their terminal to fine dining restaurants, sports bars and other venues so the traveler weary of Homeland Security’s odd ways and long waits. I was referred to the gig from a headhunter. Although I still have no idea how my resume landed in her e-mail, when times are tough, you have to think outside the box to get employed.


With both tabloids beneath my arm for the hour long trek to Far Rockaway, I boarded the E Train trying to calm myself; show no frustration, be pleasant and eager without showing desperation. This gig seemed like a real opportunity. To a degree, walking into this job is a bartender’s dream: an anxiety ridden, captive audience with way too much time on their hands and nothing to do but drink and eat to ease their minds. At the very least, that’s how I feel when I fly.


Then it happened, two young knuckleheads, one in a black suit with a black and white stripped shirt and the other dressed like a corner boy, got into an argument over how close they were sitting next to each other. The nose to nose chat turned into a ‘how dare you disrespect me that way’ scream fest. The train was stopped and the police summoned to take the offenders, both without respect for the arresting officers, off the train to a large ovation from those of us in the car.


I was only 45 minutes late for my interview.


My general genocidal distain for the knucklehead class of New York ran through me as I made my way to the Away Café on the second floor. I was certain that I had somehow screwed up and would never get the gig now. Why is it that the old New York I love had to poke its nose out when I was on a deadline? How come it had to be two kids on my train car? Why couldn’t have been a flasher I just could have walked away from, roaring with laughter? Ah well, the interview went well. It turns out I was scheduled for an interview on the half hour so my call saying I would be 15 minutes late made me 5 minutes early. The algebra of public transportation turns in odd occasionally wonderful ways and I decided not to figure out what the value of this X was. Perhaps they’ll even call me back.


The fragile hope that my ride home would be uneventful was shaken by three adolescent boys in high top sneakers, white tank tops and blue jeans. They propped a CD player against a pole, turning on a loud Hip Hop soundtrack. “It’s Showtime,” they announced.


I looked over the top of the New York Post, laughed a bit to myself and went back to Page Six. ‘More knuckleheads,’ I thought. ‘Out of work, running around the entirety of New York City and I can’t catch a break.’


Fortunately, I looked up when one of the three young men told the lovely lady next to me, a tourist from Nigeria, not to worry, his friends wouldn’t touch her. The other two young men were engaged in an acrobatic break dancing routine. I watched in awe as they jumped, spun and generally defied the space they were in. The grand finale was a dual somersault between the two pedestrian poles six feet apart, the two young men holding each other closely as they tumbled three times and splitting just before they hit the second pole, spinning around and finishing on a knee, Al Jolson style. It deserved some money, any money; it was so impressive a feat. I gave the tout one of the two dollars in my pocket.


“Great routine,” I said. “Does it pay well?”


“Not as well as McDonald’s but they aren’t hiring,” he told me.


It’s true: things are tough all over.




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