6.26.2005

MAWG, the kid, and me

I took the LSAT a few weeks ago, and yesterday we got our scores. So for the past 24 hours I’ve been giving lots of thought to whether I do actually want to go haul off and become a lawyer, whether it’s worth $200k in debt and three years of my life to enter a profession whose function I only superficially comprehend and am only specifically interested in.

This morning, though, I had dropped Kat off at the bus station at some ungodly early time for a Sunday, and when an uptown A train pulled in to the station I got on and sat down in my usual state of oblivion to the outside world. But it’s hard to ignore it when a touristy middle-aged white guy (if this had been a movie he’d be played by Stephen Root – stringy combover, pasty pudginess and all, but I’ll just call him MAWG) starts slapping at the shoulders of a high-school-age black kid wearing glasses and an oversized white t-shirt, yelling at him for bumping into him while the kid was getting on the train and the man was getting off. MAWG was accusing the kid of stealing his wallet, and when the kid claimed he hadn’t, and the man checked and his wallet was, in fact, still there, the kid turned back onto the train and said (totally justified, in my opinion), “told you so, fuckhead.”

So MAWG punched him. Weakly, inefficiently, the punch glanced off the kid’s shoulder, but it was a punch nonetheless. The white man standing on the platform and the black kid standing in the train car faced each other down through the open train door, MAWG with his dukes up, bouncing up and down on his toes like a grotesque, middle-aged Rocky parody, and the kid obviously completely terrified but way too macho to run. MAWG kept calling the kid a “little bitch,” and reaching over to sort of half-slap him through the doors of the train, and it was completely clear that what this kid was waiting for was the doors to close and the train to leave and all this totally surreal, totally inexplicable aggressive behavior to be behind him.

But of course that’s not going to happen. MAWG had a black bag slung over one arm, and he whipped it at the kid’s head so hard that a camera flew out and shattered on the floor of the train. All at once, as if there had been some signal that I had been totally unaware of, everyone else in the car (who had been watching with the same perverse interest I had) got up and went back out onto the platform. MAWG threw himself on top of the kid, and they rolled around on the floor of the train. At this point I realized I was alone in the car with them, and I followed the lead of the other passengers and went into the next car over. At which point MAWG and the kid, Collateral-style, brought their fight into the open space between the cars of the train, slamming up against the door to the car I had moved into, at which point that same unspoken signal apparently went off, and everyone from this next car left onto the platform.

Finally a conductor came running down the platform, shouting for security, and in the commotion it was clear that in the course of the subway wrestling MAWG’s camera had shattered, and in retaliation he had snatched the glasses off of the kid’s face and pocketed them. As the two of them realized that their fight was to the point where security was going to step in, they separated, and MAWG shouted “fuck you, you little bitch” and ran up the stairs and out of the station. The kid shouted after him “give me back my glasses! I can’t see without my glasses!” and it was like watching an actor chewing scenery: his face, which had been angry and indignant, just broke down. His eyebrows fell, his cheeks hollowed, and he kept shouting “I can’t afford new glasses! Give me back my glasses!” while he cried and cried standing on the subway platform. Security appeared at the other side of the platform and the kid, dazed and sobbing, just stood there as they walked towards him. And I got back into the train and it pulled away from the station.

This whole experience has been haunting me all day. I was frozen to the spot the entire time, and I can’t shake the feeling that I could have done something – stepped between them, gone running after MAWG, given the kid my own glasses or told him I knew people who were lawyers and could help, that I saw the whole thing and I knew it wasn’t his fault. I’ve since called the police, in a fit of conscience planning to offer myself up as a witness, or to give a description of MAWG, the asshole who got away. According to police records no arrests were made this morning between 8:30 and 9 on the A train platform at 42nd street, there were no warnings issued or citations filed. But I’m still in knots that I could have done something. And I think, as effervescently idealistic as it sounds, that I could have done something if I were a lawyer. I could have given him my business card. I could have intervened with the authority of a JD behind me, instead of the authority of an arrogant but virtually jobless young girl. So there’s that, at least.

6.21.2005

sitcom syndrome

for the past few months i've noticed a convenient but slightly disturbing trend in my life that i dorkily think of as "sitcom syndrome." for the most part it manifests itself in little ways: when i enter the subway, the right train pulls in immediately. when i need to park a car, there's always a space directly in front of wherever i need to be. little helpful things like these keep the narrative of my day-to-day buzzing along, and their consistent nature gives me something cute to muse about and sort of half-heartedly wonder if my life isn't actually a scripted, plotted entity a la the truman show: a sweet if somewhat plodding serial about a girl who goes on a seemingly endless string of job interviews, each interviewer wackier than the next, each interview ruined, seinfeld-style, by a minute flaw that is somehow blown up to a massive scale. but the last few weeks have really pushed my willing suspension of disbelief too far. how much coincidence can one person's life really hold? Two examples:

One sunday night in May, after dropping Liz off at Port Authority, i decided to go by myself to see Millions. It's a kids' movie, and it was 9pm on a school night, so the theater was virtually empty. I hunkered down in the fifth-to-last row with my gallon of diet coke, and settled in to watch the previews. As the "turn off your cellphone" clip started playing, a guy in his 30s came into my row - which was surrounded by other empty rows - and sidled past me, sitting two seats away. After the movie was over, I walked to the subway and noticed he was walking a few people in front of me. Once in the Times Square station, I went to my platform and realized he was already there. We got on the same car, sat in seats opposite one another, and both pulled out books by John Updike. Then we both got off at 110th street and walked three identical blocks before he turned off at Columbus. Three days ago, I ran into him at Starbucks on the Upper East Side. I have no idea if he was aware of any of this.

This past Saturday morning, after a late night, I woke up to knocking at my bedroom door. Assuming my roommate was on fire or similar, I leapt out of bed (wearing underwear and a t-shirt and not much else) and flung open the door, revealing not flaming Mia, but rather a real estate broker standing in my living room, clients in tow. "We just wanted to see your bedroom," she smiled, as my sleep-addled brain processed several facts. 1) There are people in my apartment who I did not let in. 2) My apartment is not, in fact, for rent. And even if it were, my lease isn't up until September. 3) THERE ARE PEOPLE IN MY APARTMENT WHO I DID NOT LET IN. And then one of the people said "Helen!" and holy crap the clients were both APDA debaters, and so the fact that I was in my underwear was slightly less awkward, because the strangers who had let themselves into my apartment with a key illegally given to them by my questionably competent landlords were not actually strangers at all.

Truly, what are the odds?

6.17.2005

back from the dead!

it's been nearly a year since my last (moronic) post. it's unclear to me what the tone of this ought to be, so i'll go with the standard ramblings model, and leave it at that. no one's under the impression that i'm changing the world here, so i won't set any expectations too high. i'm guessing this will wind up being some sort of modified critics corner, with luck a snarky one, wherein whatever movie i see, restaurant at which i eat, book i read, or performance i attend will get a working-over. insert random rambly thoughts, and you've got yourself a business model.