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.