|Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times|
If you were in New York City last night, Saturday, February 13 and tried to catch a downtown A or C train between 9:30 and 11 PM, you were assed out. The train I was on was the cause of the delay. The train car I was in on the A Train - 6129 - was the cause of the delay. The white man I gave that "don't sit near me" look to was the cause of the delay. He pulled the emergency brake.
I didn't know that when I first looked at him. He merely looked slightly left of center and I didn't want to be bothered. He was coherent and lucid enough to know what my look meant and kept it moving to the next set of seats.
Then I heard chatter from the center of the car - "he did it" "yeah, that white dude right there" "emergency brake" "that nigga right there"
I looked towards the people talking, "What? This dude pulled the emergency brake?" I asked motioning at him with my thumb.
"Yeah!" I saw the red cord pulled at the other end of the car and then shot a death glare at the man. Another woman sitting at the opposite end of the car, on the other side of him, asked what was going on.
"This man right here," I pointed wishing the power of anger behind my menacing point would pierce his eyeball, "pulled the fucking emergency brake."
She went off too.
And we sat there.
Somewhere between 125th and 59th street. In the tunnel.
The conductor came on over the PA system to say they were being held up.
Then she announced the train was in emergency and they were investigating.
Next announcement was that the emergency brake had been activated and now they had to recharge the train.
All the while I continued to eye that man. He knew exactly what he did and didn't care. He mocked the situation, giving people the A-ok sign and even stuck his tongue out at moments.
I usually don't make eye contact with crazy people. I watch them, but I don't make eye contact. But this man right here was gonna remember my face before he lost consciousness. I tapped my foot rapidly, repeatedly clenched my fists and wrung my fingers. I wanted to bash his face in.
I've always said if I were ever in an emergency situation that I'd remain levelheaded (enough) and be able to think my way out and get others to fall in line. I'm the one who talks (or occasionally yells) at the screen when watching "disaster" movies, pleading with the characters to practice common sense. But where would that leave the audience? How would we show character arc?
Some of the people at the center of the car passed the time telling stories of being stuck in the train after 9/11 and another time when a homeless man was projectile vomiting. "At least there's not a baby in here"
"What if someone was dying in here?"
"I knew I shoulda got on that other train."
Trains on the local track scooted on by us.
During one of my death glares at the man, I envisioned standing up and walking over to him and side-kicking him in the face. But what good would shattering his nose, sending bone fragments into his brain and causing a contrecoup injury from the impact of the back of his skull cracking against the wall of the subway car do?
Then I thought about when we did finally start moving again and got to the next station, questions of "Why's this man bloody and unconscious?" would have to be answered.
So I continued to clench my jaw.
The other angry woman continued to berate him. Threatened him with bodily harm too. She was already standing. I would not have been surprised if she pounced.
Earlier that afternoon, I learned the meia lua de compasso in my training. It was far from perfect since it was my first time trying it but I bet I'd have executed it with precision due to my rage.
I shifted my gaze past him and saw an Asian woman in the next car look into our car and then sit back down.
That's when my rage turned into clarity.
"That's the first car?" It came out like a question but it was more statement.
The conductor repeatedly announced they were investigating but I had yet to see an MTA employee walk through the train.
I walked to the locked door and tried to get her attention again but her back was turned. A little man who looked to be of South American descent was sitting near the door, saw me motioning for him to come closer so I could pass along the message and just shrugged. Eventually he did come to the door after I continued to beckon him with a frantic come hither. The other woman realized what I was doing and tried to help me convey the message. We concluded he didn't understand English and wouldn't understand our miming either.
I ducked down below the "No Exit" sign plastered on the door to make eye contact with the Asian woman, who wasn't much help. Then a Black woman saw what was going on and came over. This sistah will understand what I'm trying to say. At this point there were 3 of us at the door. I mimed and said slow enough that she would be able to read my lips that the emergency brake was pulled in our car and to tell the driver of the train.
And sure enough, she got the message.
All three of those passengers in the first car went to the front of the car and knocked on the door of the cockpit. I watched the door open and soon after the driver came out and rushed back through the car and into ours. He reset the brake. We all made sure to point out to him the person who pulled the brake too.
As I walked back to my seat I glared at the man again as he mumbled about MTA employees making $45 an hour. All I said to him was, "You betta stay your ass in that fucking seat."
Less than 2 minutes later we were moving again. One man stood up and parked himself near the other emergency brake. Another guy stood in front of me so that he'd be in a spot to stop the guy in case he got up to go in the opposite direction.
The women sitting across from me thanked me profusely.
I still had visions of that fucker's crushed face in my head. Then the guy standing in front of me said he's not even a violent person but he wanted to kick the guy in the face. I wasn't the only one.
I had noticed when I was at the car door trying to get other passengers' attention that he and another man were standing and watching and didn't think anything other than they wanted to know what was going on. It was during our commiseration that he said since our backs were to the man, he and his friend thought to watch our backs in case the guy did something our came after us. That made me see him in a whole new light and think there are still men in the world.
What got me though was the majority of the people on that train were complacent. They seemed perfectly fine with sitting there all night. Complaining. If you didn't have service on your phone 10 minutes ago, you won't have it now given the fact that we. haven't. moved. Us at the other end of the car couldn't understand how people saw the man get up and pull the brake and didn't say or do anything.
We finally reached 59th Street at about 10:30 PM. It was announced that the train would be going out of service. The platform was packed. One of the men told an MTA employee what had happened and nothing was done. The fucker who pulled the emergency brake disappeared down the platform. The A train takes its sweet time arriving as it is so I was like fuck this mess, I'll take the 1. I took the A to cut down my walk in the frigid weather last night but at this point, I didn't care.
"She's the real hero," one of the men who was in the car with me was telling people on the platform what happened, what I had done and pointed me out. Thanks, dude. I told them I was just gonna take the 1 train. As I walked away, I heard him tell his friend that they could take the 1 to Christopher Street... I don't know what they decided but I hope they ended up where there were going and enjoyed their Saturday night.
Upstairs the 1 train platform was packed too. I walked by a group of police and heard before I saw two women who were in the car with me telling some cops that "that guy pulled the brake."
"What! He's up here?" My rage returned. I looked into the crowd and saw him. The cops were still trying to get the story straight so I corroborated the women's story that yes, that guy, the white guy with the Duane Reade bags pulled the fucking emergency brake on the A train we were on. I was reaching my 'fuck' quota for the year at this point.
That cop told some of the other cops, commenting that he looked "a little off". A group of them surrounded him as a downtown 1 train pulled into the station. Their encounter with the man lacked the intensity we're used to (think Eric Garner) but at least something was being done.
I was finally on my way to my destination, over an hour later than planned, and still in need of the punching bag. But I made it to the event, had a great time, with great people, and great vibes.
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