After staring me down for a few seconds, the visibly drunk twenty-something finally approached me with a question. It was about four in the morning at the Essex stop on the JMZ line.
“Hey, which track goes to South Ferry?”
“Ah, the 1,” I replied in a tone that went beyond the mere suggestion of You’re on the wrong fuckin’ subway, pal. This is the BROWN one. You want the RED one, which you cannot get to from here.
With a slight role of the eyes and a gesture that approximated Yes, obviously I know South Ferry is a stop on the 1 line, the mysterious black denim clad rocker type spurted out something along the lines of, “Alright, how do I git to the F’nanshul Dishhtrickt from here?”
“Okay, thanks,” he replied. Then he paused.
“I like your shirt,” Stranger said. I was wearing the green skeleton tee Christopher Guest famously wears in This Is Spinal Tap. This one:
I thanked the drunken hipster, but he went on.
“Yeah, I really wanna get one for myshelf, but all the minorities wear it now, so it’s kinda been ruined.” He then looked at me and smiled.
How was I supposed to take this? Was he purposely trying to be “controversial” and “edgy” at four in the morning on a subway platform? Had I just met the Andrew “Dice” Clay of Essex Street? Had Spinal Tap been secretly embraced by white supremacists across the country? Was Timothy McVeigh listening to Smell The Glove when he blew up 168 people in Oklahoma City? Honestly, I was completely dumbfounded.
The stripe-shirted fool raised his fist for a bump, which I only very lightly bumped back because, as an American, he has every right to believe totally stupid and backwards things about minorities and 1984 heavy metal mockumentaries directed by Rob Reiner. Besides, the sun was about to come up, and I was too tired to engage in the sloshed verbal tussle that would have ensued had I spit out the “What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?” that was on the tip of my tongue. Avoiding confrontation is the name of the game when the only weapons you have at your disposal are a Twix wrapper, some house keys, and a bottle of mouth wash.
Is it ironic that this freak looked exactly like a guy I used to work with named Phil who was just about the coolest, nicest, most genuine person ever to slave away in a giant office building next to Sea World in the sweltering cesspool known as Orlando? Perhaps. Irony is a word that gets thrown around so much these days I fear some asshole’s going to have to write a book about its true meaning in the 21st Century. I fear even more that asshole will be me.