The bad: on the J train

I live in Hamilton Heights and work al the way to Bushwick. It’s a LONG commute, about 1hour and a few minutes of my day. But had I not endured all these hours on the subway, I doubt I would have witnessed pretty much every vignette of new york life you can imagine. Oh the things I saw, heard, and smelled!

One time on the 1 train, a guy sitting beside me insisted on demonstrating to me the newly acquired flexibility of his broken arm. I declined and let out a nervous laugh. Broken arm guy shrugged one shoulder in sign of indifference but another stranger sitting across from me scolded me for making fun of him. This is one of many examples of the most unlikely interactions I had with other riders.

The weirdest, most shocking incident happened during a morning commute to work, on the J tain between Flushing and Myrtle av., I think. There was at the most, three other people on the train – usually people travel to Brooklyn from Manhattan in the morning, not the other way around. I was changing into my work shoes when I noticed the homeless man who had been sitting diagonally across from me since Marcy Av station. We locked eyes. I knew that look

I have been working with children since 2007, as a day care assistant and as a babysitter. I am very familiar with that look. I just had never seen it in an adult man before. To the untrained eye, it may be confused with the “glazed look”, but it reflects a person experiencing full concentration, pleasure, and slight embarrassment. More often than not, this look is accompanied by a semi-open mouth and a slight frown. This man was, without a doubt in, pooping. Seconds later, the most foul smell invaded the subway car, making it impossible to disprove my hypothesis.

Not giving a fuck about the $75 fine, I made my way to the next car. Of course, not before exchanging one las glance with the homeless man who now sported a very different look of utter satisfaction and mischief.

MTA subway map, zoom on Manhattan-Brooklyn line


4 thoughts on “The bad: on the J train

  1. oh my god lol. that’s disgusting and funny lol. I saw your link on New New Yorkers Blog and wanted to get in touch with you about your experience with moving to NYC.

    How are you doing now? and what would you do differently in moving if you could go back? (Something that you wish you had known before you moved there and maybe had to figure out the hard way…) I’m asking because I’m in the process of saving for NYC move for next summer. I admire your courage and the thousand others who take the leap of faith.

    I don’t know if I will see a reply or get word of one, but you can email me back at “” if that’s alright.

    • Hey! I will email you. My experience was amazing and if I had one word of advice is don’t waste your money in trying to recreate a pre-conceived idea of what you think new york should be like. I was lucky I was living with a friend in an “uncool” neighbourhood in west harlem and working for an NGO so I stayed away from all the hipster bullshit but I saw many people get wrapped into consuming an expensive, cool yet delusional NYC experience. You know, the going out every night, the $15 cocktails, the exclusive parties. Although it depends on what you want…

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