Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer II

Well, I was right about the St. Abate Festival being just around the corner. Last night, all the white food-and-game trailers started parking on Ditmars Boulevard, getting ready for what I suspect will be a Thursday – Sunday run. On various corners were truckloads of these swarthy-looking workmen climbing ladders to screw in lightbulbs on the Christmas-looking street decorations. Time to surmise which night I’ll buy my customary over-priced sausage and peppers, about my only contact with the festival.

It’s hanky time for the train walk in the morning. I used to think hankies were the domain of old men and weirdoes, but guess what, when it’s 85 and humid on a brisk 10-minute walk to the subway train, it helps to use one instead of your hand to wipe the sweat away, unless you want your hand stinking. I also wipe off the back of my subway seat when I get up, as I can feel the moistness on my lower back and don’t want to freak out the next lucky sitter. Real heat in New York is getting caught too long in a sweltering subway station on a steaming, humid day. Once that curtain of humidity descends in June, those subterranean stations will stay that hot until late September.

While riding the trains, I’ve tried to be more cognizant of pregnant women, but there’s a problem with this. I’m working a job now where I’m helping fill in for a woman who worked up to a week before her scheduled child birth, and she was the size of a house. Her most consistent complaint was that she’d ride the train into Manhattan every morning from Far Rockaway (which I call “Fucking Far Rockaway” – it’s about as far as you can go on a subway train) and not once be offered a seat. Try strapping a 30-lb. weight on your stomach in a crowded subway car and tell me how it feels!

The problem is … unless a woman is obviously pregnant, I often can’t tell if she’s that or just chubby. Some women are just big or carrying a little extra weight, which is fine. But others tend to get pot-bellied – they’re not really fat per se, but whatever girth they acquire tends to settle in their belly and little sub-navel pouch. Thus making it very hard to tell if the woman is simply pot-bellied or with child.

The other day, I offered my seat to just such a woman who, to me, looked pregnant, even in the face. (That's often the only way I can tell -- a pregnant woman does have a particular glow to her face.) She glared at me, and snarled: “I’m not pregnant!” And I thought, “Baby, I really couldn’t tell. Why didn’t you just go along with it and get yourself a free seat?” I guess I should have played nice and said, “I know you’re not pregnant. You simply looked like you could use a break today. Please take my seat.”

But since she was such a pot-bellied little skank, I let it go. Between miniscule guys spreading their legs so wide they take up twice the space I normally do, and the usual shitbirds who could easily scoot over and leave plenty of room for someone else to sit, subway seats in rush hour are precious cargo. But unless I start point-blank asking women, “Are you just fat or pregnant,” I guess weird little snits like this will be inevitable. Frankly, if I were a woman, I’d strongly consider wearing a prosthetic pregnancy pouch every day just to get a subway seat.

These are the kind of things you dwell on when it gets hot in New York. I’ve been working a job on the Upper West Side the past few months, which hasn’t been bad. (The job kind of blows, but working in the neighborhood, which I rarely do, hasn't been bad at all.) Save that every lunch time, when I go out for a walk, without fail, I get accosted by the pollsters. These are college kids working for whatever left-leaning political organization, and you can always spot them a mile away, because there will be three or four of them spread out over a sidewalk on a given block, all wearing identical polo shirts, carrying clipboards, stationed in the middle of the sidewalk and making eye contact with everyone who passes.

It’s always the same shit: “Excuse me, sir, would you want to help us get the Republicans out of Congress?” Or: “Do you have a minute for gay rights?”

The most bullshit, baiting questions for their little surveys, and, no, I don't feeling like taking 15 minutes of my personal down time from work to do the dance. My answers, usually, in order: “Why aren’t there any Nazis in Congress?” and “Blow me.”

Actually, I see these kids a block away, try to maneuver my body as far as I can from their line of vision and never make eye contact – thus, I rarely have to talk to them. At least the Greenpeace nuts aren’t around anymore: “Do you have a minute to help save the whales?” Or the Falun Gong maniacs, imitating the various forms of torture they’ve suffered in China. Or the Black Israelites in their wacky Earth Wind and Fire get-ups, preaching anti-whitey hate speech through bullhorns.

Is it any wonder that a perfect lunch hour in the summer for me is to grab a sandwich, with my copy of the Daily News, find a nice park bench, regardless of whether or not it smells vaguely of dog piss, and simply sit, eat and read, maybe call a friend on the cellphone? I’ve been lucky enough to do this the past few weeks. A few days ago, I got up from a bench after doing this, only to have an old homeless guy the next bench over call out, “Hey, Mister, you forgot your envelope.” He was right – it was my landlord’s cable TV bill, and he could have easily got the money order inside and cashed it, if he wanted.

I thanked him and asked if he wanted my paper. He said, yeah, smiled, started laughing a little, and I slipped a few dollars into the folded paper before handing it to him. I spent the rest of my lunch hour in a boxy post office, sweating my ass off as I waited in line for a book of stamps because the vending machines were broken. Thank god for my hanky.

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