Public Transportation Brings Out the Worst in People

This all stems from a tweet I saw today which can be found here.

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I hate riding the subway. I am not a city boy by any means. I visit the city fairly often, but I still make the casual glance at the subway maps just in case. Public transportation is a wondrous thing.

Pay a fee, wait around, cram onto a train with dozens of others, and go somewhere else. It’s a beautiful concept. Sure there are kinks. I’ve never been a comfortable temperature on the train. And touching the railing is a coin-flip on contracting various plagues dating back all the way to the Jurassic Period.

But without a doubt the worst aspect is the people. To be fair public transportation brings out the worst in everybody. Imagine paying money to rub against some other sad soul as a large metal box carries you. Your personal space is violated, you have zero control over where you’re going, and there’s only so many directions you can blankly stare without being creepy.

Overall there really haven’t been any life-and-death events that I’ve seen on the train. Not to say I’m complaining in any way. I’m on a train to get from point A to point B, that’s it.

However, one particular event sticks out.

It was late at night and I had just gotten out of a pro-basketball game. We won handily and it was a fun night with some friends. I said my goodbyes and made my way to the subway.

Since the game had just ended, everyone was piling in. People upon people and I was lucky to be one of the first people to get on. Not early enough to get a seat, but early enough. As I got settled, my eyes started to wander. There were your usual cast of characters: college student on Red Bull number 10 and 11 , single parent corralling 3 loud kids, and so on. One person that caught my eyes was an older gentleman wearing a Charlotte Hornets baseball cap. The game I was coming from was against the Hornets and I hadn’t seen a single one of their fans while I was at the game. Clearly he had just gotten out of the game as well.

At first glance he looked like a nicer Steve Jobs. He had dad jeans, a solid-blue sweater, a fuzzy beard, glasses, and a nice half-smile. The smile you’d have after seeing your favorite team play live and watch them get trounced. Sad that they lost, but just happy to be there. Clearly this was a new experience to him, he was decked out in obvious visitor apparel. He had a backpack with a charger sticking out and he was staring at the subway map on the train.

Now I’ve never been to sports game where the team I was following was the away team, but I can’t imagine its the most pleasant thing. Imagine sitting in a stadium of thousands of other people that can tell that you have a different view than them by simply looking at what you were wearing and who you were cheering on. My city is particularly notorious for being rowdy and especially malicious when it came to sports and I’m always amazed by the bravery it must take to show one’s opposing fandom in the open like that.

It may be mainly my paranoia, but you never know who will get upset by your purely subjective views of what sports team you follow.

Emotions can run surprisingly high in sports, even among fans, and there are plenty of dumb, emotional people out there.

I kept my eye on him because his team had lost pretty badly that day, yet the smile he wore definitely gave the impression that it was an overall good experience. It was  so wholesome to see. Win or lose, he at least got the experience of seeing the team he had been rooting for for years. My mind began to wander expanding his backstory for this cute old man on the subway. Like he had been saving for the cheapest seats he could find for years and finally after all his hard work he could finally go. I could see the looks of surprise his coworkers gave when he mentioned that he had never attended a live game before. He’d tell his friends about the full experience for years to come and show pictures of the game like new parents show their baby’s pictures.

It was a nice sight to see among the typical cast of riders. He had a level of wonder to him, still taking in the experience of the game and all the new things he got to do in the city. I remembered going to my first game as a young lad and soaking in the bustle of the city almost as much as the game itself. It really made me appreciate the memories I had.

It reminds me of that cute Chiefs fan a couple years ago:

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However, that didn’t last long.

As I mentioned before, he had been trying to discern the labyrinth that is my city’s subway. Unfortunately while looking, he wasn’t really paying attention to the area around him.

A man in a motorized scooter rolled onto the train and was blocked from fully getting on because of the older man. Uh oh.

The scooter guy honked his horn.

“EXCUSE ME?”

The older man jumped up a bit. The horn was military grade or something. A couple people turned to look at the source of the noise.

“Oh sorry about that, I got distracted.” The man moved aside.

And at first that seemed like the end of that. In fact it was stranger that not a single curse word was uttered.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The older gentleman tipped his cap to the man and he made his fatal mistake. The other guy’s eyes widened. I could practically see the connection being made that the older gentlemen was in fact not a local and the scooter man did not appreciate that.

“Can’t believe such a dumb fuck managed to make it out here”, the scooter man said to no one in particular.

“It’s a good thing your shit team managed to figure out what a basketball was. Maybe you’ll know better than to come out here next time.”

Obviously I don’t recall the exact words, but I do recall the scooter guy not being able to construct a half decent insult to save his life.

I was fully expecting the old man to retaliate with his own barrage of words, as is tradition on any public transportation. But nothing happened.

The old man just continued taking the verbal abuse. The half-smile dissipated into a grimace. Up until that point there had been a certain level of innocence to the man. One angry person later and it was gone. People around the two shifted nervously, pretending like they couldn’t hear a grown man yelling a foot away from them.

Once the tirade ended, the old man lowered his head, mumbled an apology, and pushed to a corner of the car. The man took off his Hornets hat and pushed his bag between his legs. He pushed his legs together and did his best to take up as little room as possible.

Just like that his day was ruined. His team lost, he got cursed out by a stranger, and no one else had batted an eye.

As the train started up, the gentlemen just stared at the ground around him. The smile was long gone, hand-in-hand with the wonder he had mere minutes ago. A couple stops later he bolted off the train, receiving a vocal “Good fucking riddance” from the scooter guy as he passed him.

It’s one of those instances where I wish I had done something and I’ve imagined countless of scenarios where I did, but that doesn’t change anything that really happened now does it.I did nothing.

I hope that old guy can look back and laugh at how ridiculous that situation is. However, I can’t help but think that experience would deter him from seeing his favorite team live ever again.

I’m sure the scooter guy was having a rough day as well. Using public transportation is rough enough, dealing with it while factoring in the logistics of a large motorized scooter must be unbearable. That doesn’t change the fact that he ruined someone else’s day for the simple crime of being slightly in the way. I guess I shouldn’t really talk considering I didn’t say or do anything to at least console the man.

I’ll never forget the wonder he had and how quickly it was stolen away. It’s just something I wanted to share really.

If you’re still out there older Hornets fan, keep your chin up!