Wild Wild West

Phhhh-TOONG!

How do you type the sound from the movies of a guy spitting into a spittoon? You know the one in those Westerns – Grizzled guy in big hat, well-manicured mustache big enough to make you wonder if he has an upper lip, slimy rocket of maroon tobacco juice clanging into the rusty brass of the communal spit-pot on the floor.
Phhhh-TOONG? Does that sound right?

I’m going to run with it.

You might think that it is unlikely that this sound would have any application whatsoever to riding a train. And I wish you were right.

I should tell you that I debated how to start this story. The haunting echo of chaw-dribble hitting a metal receptacle? Or a simple question –

Have you ever chewed tobacco and eaten a yogurt parfait at the same time?

Here goes…

Something seemed off from the start. She slinked onto the train, her body contorted into a torso boomerang like her hair is too heavy for her neck and now she’s developed a bizarre posture – a mix between a Charlie Brown Christmas Special dance move and a pronounced hunchback. And she was wearing a sun dress with hiking boots.

She collapsed into the first seat she could reach (my seat), her ashen and papery skin unable to muffle the unmistakable sound of her bones scraping together. But it’s okay…she’s taking care of that calcium deficiency with a sizable yogurt parfait.

Yogurt Parfait – (n.) One of those plastic cups with vanilla yogurt, out of season berries, and some little crispy bits all mixed in.

Nothing out of the ordinary. The speed at which she ate the parfait on the other hand? Alarming. She lifted the parfait to her chin so she could operate the spoon like a speed bag, a dizzying blur of blue plastic and helpful bacteria. I was staring, I’m sure of it. It was hypnotically repetitive. A series of recurring steps (made more memorable by the fact that either her eyes were watering or she was uncontrollably sobbing).
1. Shovel yogurt at breakneck speed
2. When cheeks are visibly stretched so tight around the mass of parfait that the stunned man sitting next to you can make out the exact seed count of that raspberry, swallow yogurt.
3. Gasp for air.
4. Repeat.

After the final gasp, she tossed the plastic cup on the ground and I quickly turned away to pretend I wasn’t staring. Then I heard it.

Phhhh-TOONG!

I can’t look. I won’t look.

Phhhh-TOONG!

I have to know…

Phhhh-TOONG!

I casually turn forward to see her out of the corner of my eye. She has one of those metal water bottles with the screw cap and mountain climbing clip. The lid is off.

Oh my…

She’s spitting into the bottle. Phhhh-TOONG! Every time she spits into the tiny opening, the sound echoes off of the metal and into our shared space. Phhhh-TOONG!

I’m staring again. Only this time I notice the bulge in her lower lip. Massive. Almost comical.

Chewing tobacco.

I want to impress upon you that I was listening carefully to everything that transpired when my eyes were looking elsewhere. There wasn’t time for her to insert this wad of smokeless before the Phhhh-TOONG started. And there was no sound to match. She dumped the plastic cup, unclipped her water bottle, unscrewed the cap and starting spitting.

This long-cut, wintergreen tobacco infiltrated her palate throughout the entire Parfait Experience. Like sucking on a breath-mint and eating fruit salad…only nastier.

She cleared her mouth of the minty marinade and as she pulled the bottle from her mouth a single string of brown goo stretched between the mouth of the bottle and the mouth of the woman. And in true cowboy fashion, she wiped her arm across her mouth to clear the excess. Bear in mind that she is wearing that sun dress and she has no sleeves.

For 40 minutes, every spit-take was the same. Phhhh-TOONG! The tiny rope bridge of sludge stretching between mouth and bottle, wipe the excess on her bare, brittle-skinned forearm.

She got up and I got the full image: Scoliosis, tar slick slip’n’slide on her right arm, sun dress, hiking boots, tobacco related underbite. Metallic sloshing as she shuffles out of the train. An empty parfait cup left behind. The total package for the Wild, Wild West.

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We’re Sorry, Ms. Jackson

Headphones are a major tenant of most isolationist train strategies. Many of the passengers on the train are never seen them.

Headphones. Do we still use that word? Is it Earbuds now? Are earbuds an Apple trademark? Earphones? Inner ear listening devices? Beats by Dre? (I almost spelled that as Beets by Dre, which makes sense. Dr. Dre’s PhD is in gardening, after all.)

Anyway…I’ll stick with headphones.

Even if you aren’t listening to anything, they create a barrier between you and others. While reading a book, people assume that you don’t mind being bothered. But if I have headphones in? The train could be on fire and no one would bother me. The headphones don’t even have to be plugged into anything. It is especially convincing if you bite your lower lip and bob your head. A look of rhythmic agony. The expression is akin to what it would look like if you had to have an arrow removed from your leg in some backwoods cabin and you didn’t have any anesthetic, just a splash of cheap vodka to clean the wound. No headphones? Enduring the torture of rusty instrument surgery. Put headphones in? People think you’re “feelin’ it.” And that is exactly what you need to be left in peace.

Ultimately, you just have to wear headphones. Music is optional. The headphones are mandatory.

The problem exists when someone on the train doesn’t have headphones and still wants to listen to music. For example, if I want to listen to Taylor Swift on my own time with headphones in…perfectly acceptable. If I want to listen to Taylor Swift at regular volume without headphones in…completely unacceptable. Forcing anyone else to listen to your favorite, terrible music is a breach of the social contract.

Most perpetual riders inherently understand the social contract and do not subject others to their personal musical proclivities.

That percentage would be higher, if it weren’t for Ms. Jackson. Ms. Jackson gets her name from that amazing Outkast song that took the nation by storm. Ms. Jackson wears slacks that are too short and owns exclusively silk shirts. Ms. Jackson is exactly what you would imagine Kanye West’s deranged step-mother to be like.

  1. She loves hip hop
  2. She is completely out of her mind
  3. She doesn’t care about you. Or what you think.

If Left Eye from TLC hadn’t died, and had taken a job as a secretary at a downtown law firm once she was in her 50’s…that’s Ms. Jackson. (RIP Left Eye. Miss you, girl.)

How do I know Ms. Jackson loves hip hop? She stands in the middle of the aisle on the train and plays hip hop on her phone at an unreasonable volume. Repeating the songs that really make her move 3-5 times per morning.

How do I know Ms. Jackson doesn’t care about you or what you think? She raps aloud for all to hear, vulgarities and racial slurs reverberating the aging tin walls of the train as much as the high speeds and uneven tracks. And Ms. Jackson enunciates every rhyme from memory with perfect diction. She’s a pro.

How do I know Ms. Jackson is completely out of her mind?

It was the morning she sang Gold Digger. Uncensored. Every word. And the natives were getting restless after she started the song for the 3rd time. Something I’ve noticed about middle aged white people, they can only reasonably hear the ‘N Word’ 100 times before 7:00 am before they become confrontational.

Furtive glances were cast about the train, nominations were issued, a winner was selected. And the poor soul with the red velvet jacket spoke out against Ms. Jackson’s behavior. She just blurted it out, ripping off the communal bandaid.

“Can you please turn that music off?” She stamped her feet to emphasize the highlighted words and her slight frame vibrated, an emaciated, embittered relative of Kool-Aid Man.

With eyes opened wider than they should reasonably be able to go, Ms. Jackson turned to face her accuser and took a step toward the now trembling scarlet coat. Ms. Jackson moved the enormous whites of her eyes within one inch of the Commuter Tribe’s sacrifice. And giving a slight pause to allow terror to set in, Ms. Jackson echoed:

“Get down girl, go ‘head get down. Get down girl, go ‘head get down.”

“Get down girl, go ‘head get down. Get down girl, go ‘head.”

And no one has confronted Ms. Jackson since.

Take A Chance On Me

I am convinced that train schedules are developed by meteorologists seeking a change in career. At best, times are approximate. At worst, pure guess work.

“Maybe the train will run on time. Maybe it will be there to pick up passengers at the given time. Who knows? Maybe the train will leave a few minutes early…you know, to beat the rush. You’re inconvenienced? Not our problem. Back to you, Rick!”

Upon arrival, I have exactly enough time to walk from the train station to work. Assuming the train arrives on time. If I walk at an alarming pace, I can recover 2-3 minutes. Anything beyond that and I will be late. Some days, I just arrive late. Only a couple minutes. Some days, I take a taxi.

For me, taxi drivers provide endless entertainment. I find that most drivers are typically in one of two groups.

The Conscientious Cabbie

In an endless attempt to offend the least number of riders, The Conscientious Cabbie puts on NPR at a reasonable volume. He drives at 10 & 2. He calls you “Boss” or “Big Guy”. He takes an interest in the local sports team and supports the same political party as you.

The Long Distance Caller

Believing passengers to be a serious inconvenience, The Long Distance Caller’s numbered Prius is nothing more than a warm location to hold lengthy conversations in his native tongue. His frustration at having you interrupt his call with trivial matters such as payment is abundantly clear. He won’t greet you, he becomes volatile if you don’t pay cash, but he cannot break a 20.

He plays no music. It interferes with his yelling. And he is always yelling. The entirety of his call, which is always over 10 hours in length regardless of time of day. The Long Distance Caller dismisses you the same way he welcomes you, without a word. And when you exit, passersby pity you because they think the angry driver was yelling at you.

And maybe he was. It’s difficult to tell.

On occasion, your driver won’t fit into either of the two standard groups. He might listen to loud hip-hop. Or refuse to unlock the door or turn off the meter until you acknowledge the fact that the heightened production value of BBC America shows seriously detracts from the characteristic British charm. And you have to threaten to yell “fire” before he’ll let you swipe your card.

Or he’ll announce each street in a loud voice like a cheeky, TV butler announcing guests.

But if fate smiles upon you, your driver will be The Super Trouper.

No better driver exists, anywhere in the known universe. Not much is known about the Super Trouper. I presume from his Driver ID that he is Middle Eastern. I presume from his beaded seat cover that he prefers comfort to style. I presume from his continuous playing of ABBA Gold, that he has great taste in music. And it never changes. For the Super Trouper, only Benny and Bjorn will do.

The Super Trouper rolls down his window and lets his long black beard and silky rendition of Fernando flow in the wind. And he can’t be stopped. Even at red lights. The Super Trouper locks eyes with the other drivers and makes them believe that they are, each of them, Dancing Queens.

Hoping that each fare is a fan of the Swedish Hit Machine, he pulls into Milennium Station and waits. And when I enter his pristine SUV, he nods knowingly and turns up his radio. For the 5-7 minute cab ride from the station to my building, we make beautiful music together. His favorite is Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! His rich, booming tremolo cuts through the morning mist as he demands a man after midnight.

My favorite is Waterloo. Really gets my blood flowing before 7:00 am.

But there is nothing more beautiful than the phlegmy pre-dawn tenor of a 30 year old American male and the heavily accented baritone of a workaholic 50 year old cab driver in perfect harmony singing Chiquitita amidst the congested rush hour of the Windy City.

Nothing.

I am proud to say the Super Trouper took a chance on me. And when we arrive at my destination, he turns off the meter. And before he collects my money, (money, money) we finish the song together and enjoy a brief moment of reflection. We smile as I exit.

And the Super Trouper keeps on singing, his soul very much alive.

Una Cruz Al Cuello

I never intended to insinuate that riding the train is the only part of the commute worth mentioning.

I know at least one of you was wondering about this. And judging me.

In addition to the 90 minute train ride, I also enjoy a 20 minute walk from the train station to my office. And the weirdness is not limited to the train.

When you are a creature of habit, you can develop a major sense of deja vu. The same weirdos on the train. The same fast-talkers trying to foist a RedEye into your tightly clenched, pre-dawn fist. The same bearded buskers playing Wagon Wheel. The same homeless with varying degrees of believability.

And in my case, the same flamenco guitar player. The World’s Worst Flamenco Guitarist.

Ever seen a musician that becomes one with the instrument? And with tightly closed eyes and a look of bewildered near-pain, uses that instrument as an extension of his/her own voice, completely lost in the sound. The music becomes a portal to another dimension, one in which music is king. The kind of artful expression that brings tears to your eyes. The kind of thing that moves you, quite literally. Sometimes it will make you have to use the restroom. And what you do there is no one’s business but your own.

The World’s Worst Flamenco Guitarist thinks that he is that kind of virtuoso. And upon closing his eyes, his minimal guitar skill turns to outright bumbling. Fumbling his way across the frets, his salt and pepper mustache twitching in time. The sheen of sweat emerges on his middle-aged, bald skull. And he, too, is transported. But not to that vibrant land of sound waves and tasty guitar. He exists in some kind of drug-addled, slow motion Misirlou by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones universe (listen to it, you know it).

And his guitar playing is a reflection of that universe. The WWFG plays the same note for up to 30 seconds before switching to another note or strumming a dissonant chord, not dexterous enough to pluck the string at the rate required of a notable surf guitarist. The result is the most alarming and comical version of Yesterday ever heard, which he plays each day at 3:40 pm.

Rather than a lovingly worn, hollow-body dream-machine, he uses a fake Fender Stratocaster. One of those guitars that is conceived in a triangle box that you see stacked near the checkout in a K-Mart. A guitar in bad need of tuning. One that should be in the grubby hands of a 14 year old that just learned Enter Sandman and is content to play it at a sedate pace and disturbing volume without end until his face clears.

But it doesn’t stop there. The WWFG uses a drum machine. I have heard innumerable quality guitarists sap their street cred and alienate listeners with a drum machine. Even an expensive drum machine that is fully programmable will ruin the most sultry version of Entre Dos Aguas.

The WWFG? He has a 44 key Casio. The one with the built in Bossa Nova groove. The one you and your cousin found with missing keys and laughed at how bad it sounded when you were 8 years old at your Uncle’s 4th of July party. The one that you bought as a joke in ’02 at a garage sale for a dollar and then threw away because you realized it wasn’t even good to be used as a joke gift for an old friend that you don’t keep in touch with anymore and you didn’t know where to get D batteries.

The WWFG balances a mason jar on his knee and, eyes closed, plays the following song:

Be dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee

CHORD

Be dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee

CHORD

And I sing along: “Yesterday…all my troubles seemed so far away. To avoid the WWFG I started using the pedway.”

I had to smash the syllables a bit.

Then the WWFG appeared in the pedway. And ruined it with his frantic and arrhythmic plucking. He recognizes me. And track my movements. Even though he plays with his eyes closed.

He wants me to put money in his mason jar. But I won’t. Because he doesn’t know Cuestiones De Querer and, regardless of quality, I do not support the use of drum machines.

Mentholated Bottom-Feeder

Mmmmmmmmmmm mm mm mm mm mmmm

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmm mmm mmm mm mm mmmmmm

I wish I could say that I was enjoying some rare delicacy that enthralled me enough to make such a sound.

But this is my textual imitation of the sound that grates me for 40 minutes three times a week. A distant, sputtering chainsaw. A bubbling, mucusy gurgle lightly emanating from the throat of the man next to me.

He is The Compulsive Throat Clearer. And this is the sound he makes. One long syllable followed by no more than half a dozen very short syllables and one medium length syllable at the end.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm mm mm mm mm mm mm mmmmmmmm

You know that sound? When a person won’t just cough and get it over with, so he constricts his airway and squeezes air over the vocal chords to scrape the mucus off like a spatula on a hand-mixer (it doesn’t matter how many times you scrape, it isn’t all gonna make it in the cake). That’s the sound.

I’m glad I typed it out, because it is painful to replicate. Try it. As gritty as possible. I bet it hurts. Unless “you” happens to be The Compulsive Throat Clearer, in which case…thanks for reading. And seriously stop doing this.

Let me back up. The Compulsive Throat Clearer is unfazed by other people. Or maybe unaware. Entirely. He gets on at the final stop before the train approaches the city. He is always last on the train and he takes whatever seat is available. And he never speaks. Never. I sit my backpack on the seat next to me as a matter of custom. But, when someone approaches to sit down, I voluntarily move it. I do so quickly. The first time he sat with me, I didn’t see him approach, and he sat on my backpack. Then he stared at me and lifted up just enough for me to move it. Then he stared some more.

The Compulsive Throat Clearer has a face like large-mouth bass, if it were deep in thought. He wears an Oakland Raiders cap, but I am confident that he has no interest in football as he appears to have no interests at all. Other than the obvious.

On this particular day, he turned to face the front, and closed his eyes. Then he ate a cough drop. His first of three.

And I soon found out that he is a man of habit. Who isn’t? Fish-face to the front, sucking on cherry menthol, revving like a minute Harley Davidson at a stop light. The guys with something to prove that rev as loudly as possible through each stop light until the light turns green. Exactly like that, only muffled. And phlegmier.

And it never stops. 40 minutes, this guy. Every day. He pauses for 3-5 seconds to suck on his cough drop and to continue looking like a sleepy trophy fish, but after that, he clears his throat again.

I’m not typically a violent man, but I have almost throttled him on more than one occasion. I tolerated him at first, maybe he has a cold. Maybe it is a lingering cough? Maybe it is something to do with the shape of his piscine face. Maybe it is the only way for an aging merman with faded black jeans and a baseball cap to survive on land.

My ability to tolerate this gravelly habit is almost at an end. I have tried to ignore him. But I can see his gills rhythmically pulsing even when I am listening to music. And when I close my eyes, I can hear the crinkly wrapper and smell his lozenge (Smell his lozenge? That sounds dirty…) And sometimes he thrashes from being outside of the water for too long.

I’ve tried to out-throat-clear him, but that is impossible. He is a grizzled veteran. And he is too oblivious to the world around him to dissuade him in any other ways. Loud hip-hop music with my ear phones suspiciously close to his scaly bald head goes completely unnoticed. I’ve even acted crazy, but he never cracks open an eye. Or opens that impressive bass mouth.

Meanwhile, he keeps on clearing his throat. And my bag smells like cherry-flavored snot. I seriously don’t know what to do. He may be a fish, but it isn’t legal to filet him. Not regulation size, maybe. Or immoral. I’m not sure.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mm mmm mm mmm mm mmmmmmmmmm

Help…

Seatiquette

Seat etiquette is of utmost importance. The rule is similar to bathroom etiquette for men.

 

For those of you not familiar with Male Public Restroom Etiquette, the rules are fairly simple. And no one ever tells you the rules, you just get the idea from casual observation. Also, casual observation is all that is typically approved of when hanging out with strangers in the bathroom, so that works out. Too much observation in the public restroom can lead to all sorts of things, danger among them.

 

Where were we? Ah…yes. It becomes clear at an early age, you don’t stand next to someone at a urinal if you can avoid it. If you are the first to claim a urinal, you have an obligation to allow for maximum urinators. If there are 3, you can take 1 or 3. Taking number 2 is unacceptable. You have to allow a buffer if another needs to relieve himself. If there are 4 urinals, you can take any of the four and the buffer remains intact. Once the precedent has been set, the 2nd reliever must uphold the preexisting structure. If there are 3 urinals and the 1st reliever has taken number 3, the 2nd must take number 1. Taking number 2 is unsavory and frowned upon. If there are 4 urinals and the 1st takes an odd number, the 2nd must take the other odd number. The same is applicable for even numbers. You get the pattern. If not, let me break it down.

 

UNDER EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE, WHEN POSSIBLE, THE RELIEVER MUST LEAVE A SPACE BETWEEN HIM AND THE NEXT OCCUPIED URINAL

 

Now, there are those that insist that you should wait if you cannot leave the extra space if the others are taken. Those rules are simply absurd. Those men have larger bladders and more spare time than I have. The only rule that makes sense: Leave a buffer if possible and keep your eyes on the white tiled wall. We’re all adults here. But, be advised, if for ANY reason you are left at the middle urinal alone (even if 2 guys just left while you were mid-stream) and someone else comes in, you are out of luck. They will never believe that there were two others there “just a second ago, [you] swear.”

 

Also, it is not really accepted to speak to strangers while unzipped, so offering an explanation at all is not recommended. All you can do is finish and leave, head hung in shame. And please wash your hands.

 

Why are we talking about bathrooms so much? Well, there is a similar etiquette that holds sway over public train seats. The rule is similar to the broken down rule from above.

 

UNDER EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE, WHEN POSSIBLE, THE RELIEVER COMMUTER MUST LEAVE A SPACE BETWEEN HIM (or HER) AND THE NEXT OCCUPIED URINAL TRAIN SEAT

 

It’s clearly posted within the collective commuter consciousness.

 

Like urinals at the zoo post dolphin show, full capacity is inevitable. Regardless, maintaining the rule is a requirement. Sitting with another person when there is an empty seat is an offense punishable by excommunication and assured wandering in purgatory. A purgatory with trains that never run on time and filled with kamikaze moths and people talking on cell phones. Or a purgatory with only middle urinals with broad shouldered men on either side. Depending on the applicable situation.

 

Lately, a transgressor has emerged. A female sexagenarian (that’s a person that is 60+, not the other thing that it could potentially be, at least not that I’m aware of), with a drab collection of cargo pants and Marty McFly hair that would be snow-white if it weren’t for the yellowing of consistent tobacco use over time. The encroachment begins before the final three stops, when the train crowds with the weary and the rules laid out above are acceptably broken due to the mass of people.

 

First time I saw her, she smiled while coming up the aisle. I thought she was being nice. But she knew what she planned. And she smushed in next to me. The fleshy part of my thigh inside her unbuttoned cargo pocket. I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. I hoped it was a one-time breach of Seatiquette.

 

It wasn’t. And now I’m obsessed, like 30-somethings with Mad Men. I know it won’t go anywhere, but I have to know why.

 

Why me? There are other open seats. And I am not remotely enticing.

 

Why me?

Little Round the Middle

My favorite person with which to share a seat is, undoubtedly, Scrawny Businessman. There are many other people with which I really don’t relish having to coexist. A small, but not exhaustive, list of those commuters includes: Noisy Necklace Twirler, Extremely Flexible Nail Painter, Freestyle Rapper 1, Seated Tap Dancer, Freestyle Rapper 2, Unnecessary Grunting Man of Indeterminate Age, and How Many Bananas is it Even Safe to Eat in One Ride Lady.

For obvious reasons, my ability to achieve a quiet and unremarkable trip to the city is seriously jeopardized by those people.

Scrawny Businessman, however? He’s ideal.

He’s not the most fashionable middle-aged, bespectacled man. But, neither am I. Scrawny Businessman wears a tie every single day on the train. This, in and of itself, is not uncommon. Many tie-wearers ride the train. He has uncommonly bad ties, though. You know when hipster youths raid the tie bin at Goodwill? Those cast-off ties are significantly outrank the Scrawny Businessman’s ties. There is not a paisley to be found, which results in immediate disqualification from the Semi-Monthly Train Tie Award Ceremony. His ties fall into categories:

1. Cartoon Montage Ties (31%) – These are your standard Junior’s First Tie type ties. They feature Yosemite Sam in every comically enraged state of red-face imaginable. Or that singing frog that the WB stole to use as their mascot for a while. And they never feature Hannah Barbera cartoons which would be a significant improvement. (If a Wacky Races tie exists, I would rock that in a heartbeat). But if you were hoping to see a tie featuring the short-lived Three Stooges cartoon, you are in luck – it’s the first Thursday of every month.

2. Floral Print Ties (10%) – Big, pastel flowers. Tasteful greenery. Always some amount of pink in those petals. A dream.

3. Cordury or Square Ties (8%) – While not necessarily related, there are enough of both of these ties to warrant their own category.

4. Cordury AND Square Ties (11%) – In case you were wondering what would happen if he had a square-tipped tie that was also made of brown corduroy, wonder no more. Those ties get their own category.

5. Skinny Ties – (19%) – You might think that these would be cool again, since they are rearing their skinny heads. But, you’d be wrong. You just know that these are first-run skinny ties. Also, Scrawny Businessman doesn’t have facial hair, so it doesn’t really work.

6. Geometry Ties – (21%) – I don’t mean patterned ties. I’m talking about ties that ask you to solve for X. Ties with rhombuses. Rhombi? I prefer rhombuses. One of them has a diagram, including appropriate angles, for tying a double Windsor knot.

Coincidentally, Scrawny Businessman ties a terrific double Windsor. Enough about ties.

So, what’s great about Scrawny Businessman?

He’s tiny. And all business.

Scrawny Businessman has a strange proportion to him. He probably weighs 140 pounds, and most of that is Adam’s apple. That wouldn’t be remarkable in any way, if he weren’t well over 7 feet tall. The man is the tiniest of giants. Or maybe some kind of famished troll. A famished troll with a briefcase. One time, when he sat with me, another person asked if they could sit down. When he objected, they screamed and ran away, raving about a “talking cardboard cutout with a vintage floral tie”.

I had to know just how mini he was, so I checked his waistband. He wears size 26. If you turned a 7’ 2” rake upside down and then it started reading non-fiction. That’s him. He’s my ideal companion. My own personal Stan Laurel. And just as talkative. I’m observing other weirdos on the train. He’s reading about the naval victories of Oliver Hazard Perry on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. (Look it up…amazing stuff)

It was perfection. But, it’s over now. We had a good run, Scrawny Businessman and I. For two glorious weeks he was my every day seatmate. And because of his size, my leg never got all sweaty from rubbing into his leg. It was that kind of magic. Dry-leg style magic.

Now…Scrawny Businessman doesn’t minimally take up space in my seat anymore. I don’t even know if he is still alive (Although I suspect he is. With a frame like that, his heart will probably beat forever.) Ever since the day that I accidentally embraced him while he was reading about the Westward migration of organized crime throughout the 20th century in the United States, I haven’t seen him. Or his ties.