Now that the world has somewhat opened up, I once again find myself with long stretches on the train, casting about for ways to amuse myself. Although I have a trusty little office at home and don’t have daily commutes to work, I do have frequent hours on the train to church and back, as well as to other social events, and since I don’t always manage to have a book at my fingertips (sometimes I run out of mass market size in my library and don’t feel like lugging a veritable encyclopedia around) and I bet you don’t either, let me share some helpful little games that are fun to play on the train.
- What’s that smell?
Whenever you spy a train car that’s a lot emptier than the rest of the train, you can bet it’s probably because something smells very, very unlike a rose garden in there. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can ride in it and try to determine the source of the odor. Even if you aren’t quite that brave, plenty of odors will assault your senses in all the other cars as well. Is it… somebody’s curry-dinner-breath? A crunchy someone who doesn’t believe in deodorant? The remnants of an unfortunate misstep on someone’s shoe? Someone whose water was turned off at their apartment for a week? Give playing detective your best shot.
2. What’s that liquid?
In a similar vein as the previous one, although rather grosser. You wouldn’t believe how many stray puddles of various colors the underground world contains. Spit? Spilled drink? Let’s take a big step over it and hope it’s only that.
3. Spot the tourist.
This is a favorite of mine, and I’d like to think I’m getting rather good at it. There are of course some obvious giveaways, such as the dad jean shorts with sandals and a backpack, or a “Murica” teeshirt and a cowboy hat and a puzzled expression, but there are more subtle signs I’ve learned to spot as well, such as the people who actually look cheerful and interested when street performers enter the train, instead of annoyed. And if they actually clap for a pole-swinging performer accompanied by raucous music from their loudspeaker who nearly knocks someone’s teeth out- that’s a dead giveaway.
There’s also the fashion that’s either a little too normal to be from New York, or maybe looks more like it belongs at a rodeo or on a farm instead of in a city, and there’s a general lost sort of air to look out for, and of course any and all “I <3 NY” items, which no New Yorker would be caught dead in, at least not unironically.
4. Find the Wealthy.
This one particularly fascinates me, because the subway is the great equalizer of humanity, where the man who hasn’t showered in three weeks rides alongside the boss babe young Mom from Park Slope who owns her own brownstone and sells $300 macrame llamas for a living. Even the very wealthy sometimes find the subway more convenient than finding parking, ya know. Sometimes you’ll see someone in the mix who just oozes riches, and I like to examine them and figure out why.
Sometimes it’s the sleek, every hair in place, 100% glamorous look, but more often it’s something to do with a purposely disheveled look that only the rich can seem to pull off. I mean, I look disheveled plenty, but I am quite certain it only shows off my love of thrift stores and dislike of spending much time on my hair. However, the very wealthy have a particular way of presenting, like, “I just rolled out of bed and threw on some linen head-to-toe and now I’m on my way to see my personal masseuse, so I’ll just hide behind these expensive sunnies with my messy topknot and tap at my phone with my perfect manicure and look disdainful.” How does this happen? Once you have a certain amount of money in your bank account, does your hair get a memo to never have a frizzy day again?
5. Sneak Photos of Interesting Fashion
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and oh so fun. If the person being photographed catches you, you lose. And although photographing strangers in public spaces is perfectly legal in the US, there’s still the added challenge of not looking like a weird stalker to the people next to you, who can see your phone. Take the L train through Williamsburg if you really want to see some bizarre clothing choices. I love this about New York City- you can wear literally anything here and you will not be the oddball, not by a long shot. Well, maybe in an Amish dress and cap you’d stand out a little…