One Day I Will Get Shot

The family of four was treating the subway car like they’d treat the beach at Coney Island, throwing trash under the seats, building a nest of garbage. And not just paper, mind you. The father was making sandwiches and throwing slices of salami under the seats. I half expected sea gulls and pigeons to get on at the next stop.

People, I am not making this up. Family of four. Young man, young woman, four-year-old boy and a baby in the stroller. Even better than the bad example being set by his actions, the father, when asked by the child what to do with his half-eaten bag of Sun Chips, specifically told him to throw it on the floor.

It gets worse, much worse. By this point I was pissed off at this gutter trash cluttering up the train and I was pissed at myself for not saying anything. I firmly believe if we shamed more people in public this sort of crap wouldn’t happen. I think that there should be a squadron of grandmothers installed on all trains to yell at such reprobates. But here’s the thing, I’ve seen that guy’s grandmother on the train probably–the old lady throwing orange peels and spitting sunflower seeds onto the floor. And one day he will be a grandfather, clipping his toenails on the subway while he rides out to Rockaway.

I wrestled with myself. My dad used to do stupid shit like chase, unarmed, after robbers. My brother probably still does. Just last week, I was pegged with a water balloon by a gang of kids while running the track in Red Hook. I could have ignored it. I could have gone with the “Aww, gee, guys. That’s not very polite” that they likely expected. Instead, I said the following: “What the fuck is wrong with you little motherfuckers. FUCK!” and stood there glaring. No way it changed their behavior, but it at least shocked them enough into lying about their actions and blaming other people rather than just laughing and throwing another one at me. Small victories at all.

But do you shame a father in front of his children on the train in New York? Do you take that risk, knowing full well that no one else will have your back? That you’re trapped under the East River with a guy 10 years younger than you and who probably grew up fighting? It’s one thing to wag a finger at a man when he’s alone, another to do it when he’s got his dignity to protect. So I swallowed my rage.

Until he started changing the baby’s diaper. Until, after he was done, he moved to add the diaper to stack of salami and uneaten bread under his seat. At that point, dressed in my dandy work clothes, I just couldn’t help it. I kept my mouth shut, but gave him the old Ken Wheaton State of Disgust and he looked right fucking at me, stopped what he was doing and held on to the diaper.

“What?” he said, kind of laughing. His wife slapped him on the arm.

I just looked away before I accidentally made eye contact with her and had her all up in my face with the “What the fuck you looking at?” and the “You think you’re better than us?”

Still, he held onto the diaper. I felt I’d won some sort of little victory.

Until we got to the next stop, where he walked to the subway door and just through the diaper out onto the platform.

UPDATE: An even better (worse) story about poop on a train. (Via The Awl)

15 thoughts on “One Day I Will Get Shot

  1. I know the feeling! I have to hold my tongue and be diplomatic/socially correct when I would like to tell parents “now I know why @#%^$#@little Johnny behaves that way”. We have raises a generation of selfish, irresponsible parents. They expect teachers to teach manners to their children. The government has placed accountability on everyone but parents, they all feel that we owe them something. Oh, well let me stop here…I think you can get the message.

  2. I am moving to NY next week. While I have rode the subway many times, and thought I had seen EVERYTHING, this story is disgusting. NY has cleaned up the streets…can it clean up the subways? I guess there will always be trash. And by trash, I mean the people.


    No words, dude. NONE. HOW IS HE MAKING SANDWICHES FOR CHILDREN ON THE SUBWAY?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Okay, caps lock screed over….almost CHANGING A DIAPER??? WTF??!!

    In other

  4. I once had a guy get on the F train. Stand in the middle of the train and light up a cigarette. Seriously. Just stood there smoking his cigarette like there weren’t a bazillion rules in NYC against smoking in places like bars/restaurants/offices, why would you think you could do it on the SUBWAY!!

    I, like you, held my tongue. But what I wanted to say was, Don’t you have a mother? What the hell is wrong with you? You think you are the only person on God’s green earth?

    So yeah, I’d be all for that squad of grandmothers.

  5. If they’d used cloth diapers they’d have tucked the mess into a wet bag to launder at home.

  6. ok. am so pissed. this is one of the craziest think i’ve heard on the subway. but a dirty diaper!!!! wtf!

  7. Well then I’m going to get shot too. I hate that sort of disrespectful behavior. Makes my blood boil. How do you become the person who uses the world as their garbage can? It’s obviously poor parenting (or maybe no parenting) but I think it also has to do with a lack of education. You don’t throw shit, literally in this moron’s case, all over the place if you are an educated human being.

  8. Last week a bum on the street threw his garbage in the lovely bank of flowers when a garbage was within throwing distance. Of course I can’t not say anything, so I yell “Hey! Pick up that trash and put it where it belongs!” And he proceeds to start screaming “bitch you throw it away” and although I thought we could drive off, we were at a stop light and the screaming continued for a good long while. Moral of the story- pick and choose who you decide to yell at.

    Also, I challenge the young, hip people of the world to come up with a cooler term than “litterbug.” Anyone?

  9. I used to amuse myself on the subway by picturing people as babies (and of course it was easiest with old men), and generally minding my own business.

    But I think short of completely shaming someone, you have to stand up for basic decency — or else who will? And for sure, those kids noticed you.

    I think you did the right thing, channeling your inner grandma.

    Where is Tyler Perry when you need him?

  10. Ok, that makes it even grosser that we saw some chick walking on the Path train barefoot on Memorial Day. The only way to get clean feet after that, would be to peel a layer of skin off or something.

    I’m so glad I work in a small village along the freeway, where my only option is to drive myself to work. At least I know where any ick in my car came from. (Not that the Rapid Transit in Cleveland is anything like the NY Subway system.)

  11. Hello Ken,
    I sometimes wonder myself, what happened to
    us, because it is not only USA, but whole world.

    I am a political refugee from eastern Europe.
    Came to my new beloved home in Boston in
    1964. This was a different country!

    I was arrested about a year ago, when I had to
    pacify a kid (6’2″), who was begging near my
    pharmacy. After I made a mistake telling him
    “he should be ashamed”, he – being high on meth
    became berserk. In trying to stop me to get into
    my car, I finally had enough and he ended on
    the ground with broken nose. (Whoa, it felt good!) But cops just arrived (somebody already
    called them before) and with their nazi approach
    and without a question, threw me against the car
    and started with handcuffs and Miranda.
    It was an old chinese gentleman, who called them
    because he was bothered the same way and he
    managed to stop them. Without apology, they
    busted the kid a after some questions, took him
    away. Since I work for the government, found
    later, that the “kid” was wanted in Denver for
    armed robbery + !
    The point I am trying to make is: Americans are
    scared to get involved! Surprised? I am not!
    So, most of us ignore most of the situations –
    in your metro experience, in the old USA or
    elsewhere, someone would smear the diaper
    shit over the guy’s face.
    Vandalism is ok, because children were never
    told by soo busy parents, that is NOT!
    Respect is all about gone and I have a concealed
    weapon permit – hope I will never have to use
    a gun, but in selfdefence or defending my family?
    I practice for fun around 200 rounds (.22)
    every Sunday, after I come home from church.

    Here in Nevada, we are still a little www – wild, wild west, but having MS13 HQ here, plus other
    gangs, home invasions, murders in broad day
    light – one can not be careful enough.

    But 45 years ago? I walked at 2:30 AM from
    work (in Boston), taking the back alleys and
    never once had a single problem.

    Stopped visiting Czech republic, after my parents died in 2004, because they seem to
    have very same problem. And so does whole
    Europe. So can somebody explain to me, what
    the hell happened? And not just in good old USA? Is it media, TV – saturated with blood,
    violence, disrespect – anything goes?
    Mad Max adventures?

  12. When she asked if you thought you were better than they are, you should have said, “Yes. Yes, I am.” Because you are. Because you care.
    I was raised in a house where we said yes/no ma’am and sir. We were taught to hold doors open regardless of gender (I am female), to say “excuse me” when walking between 2 people in a conversation (usually blocking a pathway), RSVP invitations, send thank-you notes, etc. Does it really take that much more energy to be polite?

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