Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I’m back at my old employer’s, working in a better position with an office with a window and everything. It seems almost every day I’m here, I remember more of what it was like in those pre-baby days when I was a nine-to-fiver like the rest of you. The moment I see her do it again, I’ll remember the actually quite distinct way one co-worker used to roll her eyes. There’s a really awful one-legged saxophonist who sometimes plays down at the street under our windows, and he hasn’t gotten any better. The same halting notes, the same one song, played for the first time ever live, how the man is actually practicing as he panhandles.

There’s even a lot of the same panhandlers in the very same locations. One dude stands outside our door and he’s better dressed than me. A rule of thumb: when a panhandler has a nice, crisp press mark down each pants leg and clean, new shoes, it’s a friggin scam. I tend to be an easy touch for panhandlers. I don’t particularly care if they’re going to spend it on wine. If I were homeless and mentally ill, I’d hope someone would occasionally toss me a couple bucks for some palliative measures. I’ve noticed some very religious acquaintances of mine refuse across the board to give to panhandlers, which strikes me as generally anti-christian, but then I’m an atheist, so what do I know?

At any rate, when you commute into work there are a variety of types you will run into no matter where in the country (or world, for that matter) you find yourself. While this list is in no way meant to be exhaustive, it does mark the types I seem to run into with great frequency.

The Wanderer

These nitwits can’t seem to walk a straight line. It’s 8:45am, are they drunk already? Inevitably, I find myself behind one of these types when I’m in a hurry and there’s not a lot of room to maneuver. They trail over to one side, then back to another before wobbling in the middle, then scooting back over again. Sometimes it’s because they’re fiddling with cellphones or iPods or some other technological gee-gaw. Most times, though, I think it’s just because they’re oblivious. Yet, there’s some kind of awareness here, because as often as they appear (to my delight) to be headed straight for a wall, they always issue a course correction and stumble back into my way.

The Blockade

Usually three or more people who seem to have decided that slow, meandering groups who walk abreast in tight quarters are A-OK! Much like the Wanderers, this herd turns up when you’re in a hurry and they impede any and all traffic flow. Very chatty, they are completely deaf to any “excuse me’s” you throw their way, and one always laughs uproariously at what one of the others said, causing the third person (who missed it) to make them repeat it. Generally, these communication moments require a slackening of their already snail-like approach to locomotion. This pack is also likely to have a member who simply must get something out of her purse or arrange something in his computer bag or to window shop. Most maddening of all is when they stop to gaze at something in a store window. Does the Blockade move en masse to the window? No, they remain abreast, jutting out into traffic, looking over each other’s shoulders.

The Briefcase Dragger

Sometime after suitcases developed the extension handles and wheels approach, larger than usual backpacks and briefcases sporting the same features appeared. I have no way of knowing how many people work jobs downtown that require them to tote enormous loads, but if the train traffic is any indicator—it’s every fucking one of them, save me. This person drags some little bag behind them like a dog on leash and inevitably, no matter how many weeks, months, years they’ve been doing so, will almost always get it stuck in the door of any building. If they even glance at a revolving door, the ensuing clusterfuck will be enough to shut down midtown. This is the same person who will set their bag up right next to themselves on any escalator preventing anyone from passing them as they stand, senselessly yammering into their Bluetooth headsets. I’ve missed trains a-plenty when I could have just as easily place kicked their efficient little sample bags like it was tryouts at the NFL.

Loud Talking Jackass

This person always sits behind me. Every day. I could hang off the back of the train’s rear compartment and there’d be some dude there on his phone blathering on in a way too loud voice about the party he’s going to, the party he went to, the dumbasses in his department, the cool, hip new TV show he’s lobotomized enough to enjoy. Whatever. When cell phone headsets first appeared, this guy had one. When Bluetooth came out, this guy got it. First time I saw one of these guys when he wasn’t sitting behind me, he was walking down the street apparently speaking to no one. He gestured wildly, he laughed at nothing, he made bombastic commentary. I assumed, as anyone might, that he was simply insane and I crossed the street. Soon I noticed that the ranks of the insane were growing. These Loud Talking Jackasses were everywhere. Then I noticed the wires. A-ha.

Bicycle Messengers

Mix the fashion sense of a junkie with a chronic drunk’s sense of self-preservation and you have the modern bicycle messenger zipping past you, cutting off a fucking bus for Christ’s sake, pedaling hell-bent on getting through that yellow-no-it’s-red light at the intersection. Many of these fellows drop stuff off at the office and I have to sign for it. They never take off their wrap around shades, but they seem pleasant spirited enough. That’s because they’re not on their bikes. Put wheels under this dude and he’ll ride right into the mouth of a shark.

The Psycho Person

Man or woman, this person usually has that smell. You know what I mean. They haven’t shit their pants yet, and that’s a miracle. Their mouths tend to work spasmodically, their eyes pop out of their heads. Often, if you get close, they’ll bleat out some all purpose menacing jibber jabber. Sometimes they stride right down the center of the sidewalk and just bellow. Avoid at all costs.

The Crazy Person

Not to be confused with the Psycho Person, these people usually wander along muttering to themselves or engage you in most peculiar conversation. One woman in a cross walk implored me to go to a concert with her to see some whacked out band. .38 Special? Captain and Teneille? Blue Oyster Cult? I can’t remember anymore, but she was certain, that was it, we were going, all right, rock on! Another woman, sitting behind me on the train, petted my hair, told me it was beautiful, and discussed how much she loved Michael Jackson. I think, but I can’t be sure, that these people are one beating from an asshole away from turning Psycho.

There’s all kinds out there in the city and I’m sure I’ve left some off the list. If you add your favorites in the comments, I’ll wrack my brains to see if I’ve ever met them. More later as I think about this…

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