As the E train inched along and then stopped during the evening rush hour, the conductor announced that our delay was due to a sick passenger on the train ahead of us. There was the expected round of frustrated sighs, shoulder shrugs, and knowing eye rolls from my fellow passengers. Those of us who were lucky enough to have a seat did the imperceptible gratitude butt wiggle, hunkering down to get comfy for the wait; except for the Angry Guy sitting next to me.
He took the delay personally. “Oh c’mon!” he said, sharing his outrage with no one and everyone. "They hold everybody up for one guy? Let’s go!”
The other passengers were library quiet both in resignation to the delay and in actively giving Angry Guy no audience. Why would we? This wasn’t a Kerouac novel; riding the rails for giggles. We all had someplace to go and we all needed to be there 10 minutes ago.
The updates from the conductor just made Angry Guy angrier. He huffed and he puffed like his side hustle was blowing down pig houses. “There’s got to be a better way of doing this!” he said, but didn’t follow up with any actionable suggestions. (At least no polite ones.) And as he ranted all I could think was, “What if it were you? What if you were the sick passenger?" (Although, if they also stopped the trains for all instances of mental illness, we’d be at a permanent stand still.)
But as Angry Guy egged himself on, perhaps believing his volume would have an effect on train movement, his displeasure seemed focused on the fact that we were all being inconvenienced for one person who was probably being sick on purpose.
Okay. I’ll cop to it. I’ve gotten on the train at least once not feeling my best. And my upset stomach, fever, chills, and headachy hope was that I could hold it together long enough to get home. Why’d I get on the train at all? It was the limo drivers day off.
As a lifelong straphanger, I know that the only thing we dread more than hearing the sick passenger announcement is being the sick passenger. Nobody wants to stop the train. It makes everybody hate you. Well not, you, per se. They don’t know you well enough for that. But they hate what you represent: a delay; a hitch in the old giddy-up; a drag on the New York Minute. And worst of all, you are a reminder: "What if it were me? What if I were the sick passenger?” This unsaid question usually keeps the sighing, shrugging, eye rolling, and ranting to a minimum.
And so I really wanted to ask my demonstrative (and perhaps unmedicated) seatmate: “Hey Man/Dude/Bro/Sir: what if it were you?” But I didn’t want to be the cause of an injured passenger announcement. Instead, I did another gratitude butt wiggle and waited.
So, are the vagaries of life stressing you out? Are you mumbling and grumbling to nobody and everybody? Then maybe it’s time for a grown up time out. A nice dinner? A movie? Ooh! I know! Come see a comedy show! To paraphrase Modern English: I’ll stop the world and laugh with you. (You’ve seen the difference and we’re getting better all the time.)