Monday, April 13, 2009

If a Homeless Woman in the Subway Asks You If She Can Ask You a Question, JUST ZIP IT

Hallelujah! A vacation without vomit! A vacation without missing hotel reservations, delayed flights, lost luggage! A vacation without a drunk brother insisting on another Grey Goose Tom Collins, if you please!

My Easter trip to Washington with the Pink Torpedoes was a good vacation and an educational one, too. I learned many important things on my trip to Washington this weekend--thank you, Paul, the Midnight Trolley Tour trolley driver and The Smithsonians, but none of those lessons are as important as the lesson I learned down in the subway tubes.

I was coming off the escalator. I was in front of the rest of the girls, and when I came around the corner so I could walk down the platform and find a place for us to stand, I breezed past a woman--homeless, disheveled--and that homeless woman said, "Hey! Can I ask you a question?"

And, listen, here's the thing: when you walk past those little kiosks in the mall, that's what the people manning them are always quacking at you. Can I ask you a question? Can I ask you a question? And then they want to slather you with lotion or talk to you about state-of-the-art windshield wipers or show you how this one silk headband will change your entire understanding of the world of hair. So, really, the answer when they say Can I ask you a question should always be, by default, no.

Which is possibly why I had the immediate reaction to say no, which is exactly what I did when the disheveled homeless lady asked if she could ask me a question.

"No, thank you," I said, tacking on a little politeness at the end because that's what you do when the kiosk people start after you--because, well, we all know they hate their jobs and the lotion/wiper blades/headbands they are peddling, and they're just doing it to stay alive, so why not say thank you just to let them know that you've been there, you know how it is, and you feel their pain.

But a no, thank you was not what the homeless lady had in mind when she decided to see if she could ask me a question.

Suddenly, behind our group, there was a flurry of activity. A throwing of a fit. A burst of foul language.

"BITCH!" the homeless lady screamed.

At first, I didn't realize it was at me. I'd passed by courteously. I thought maybe someone else had offended her or someone around her.

"Hey," Becky said. "Hey! That homeless woman just called you a bitch!"

"Really?" I said. We were still walking. The platform was long and reasonably crowded, and we were looking for a place for all of us to stand together.

"Yes," Becky said. She turned around. "Oh Jesus," she said. "She's following us."

"YOU FUCKING BITCH!" the homeless woman screamed as she trailed us.

"Keep walking," Becky said. "Seriously! Keep walking!"

"What did I do?" I hissed. "I didn't do anything to her!"

"She's coming!" Becky said. She peered over her shoulder again. The woman was yelling in indecipherable syllables now. "She's telling other people what a bitch you are. She's pointing at you!"

"If we have to leave and come back down, we can do that," Steph said.

"There's an escalator up ahead," Becky said. "We can ride it up to get away from her. We can come back down later."

"WHAT DID I DO TO HER?!" I asked.

The woman kept coming, and we kept moving down the platform, and finally there was a space for us to duck into, and we took it. The girls swarmed around me. I was wearing a swingy pink coat. I was a walking bulls eye, and they needed to take my visibility down a notch.

I refused to look behind me. Sometimes the best way to calm down the crazy is to ignore it. If the crazy fire isn't stoked, isn't fed, isn't fanned, then it usually sputters out. I was hoping that by not turning around and acknowledging the woman who was telling the rest of the platform what a horrible cunt-y bitch I was, then maybe she would get bored of trying to provoke me and trying to get me to say something to her--which was, in reality, is what started it all.

"What did you say to her?" Amy asked.

"She asked if I could ask me a question, and I said no, thank you!" I said.

The girls blinked.

"Jess," Steph said, "when crazy-eyed homeless people say things like that to you JUST. WALK. AWAY."

"Right," I said. "Got it."

Next to us, a guy our age who had one of his arms up in a sling but was still managing to bury his nose deep into a novel, glanced our way for a second and then moved over so we could come stand farther back, next to him, far away from the edge of the platform. He smiled once and went back to his novel.

We stayed there, carefully obscured, and waited. I never once turned around to search out the shouting woman, and she stopped shouting and that was that. We got on the train without incident and found seats.

Once the train moved away from the now-empty platform, Becky leaned over and said, "Wouldn't it be funny if she came storming through the subway cars right now?"

"Uh, no," I said.

"That's what happens in the movies," Amy said.

And we all turned to look at the dark space between the subway cars as the train bumped along through the tubes.

Of course nothing happened. Of course she didn't come storming through the tightly-sealed door with her finger wagging in the air and a rain of bitch-bitch-bitches coming out of her mouth. Of course she didn't stand on a seat and announce to the entire car that this girl, this girl right here, she is a big skanky bitch.

Instead, things went along just the way they should have, just the way we could have hoped for the time in Washington, and we spent the rest of our it boning up on history, eating as much food as possible, talking about weddings, weddings, weddings, and doing things that the Pink Torpedoes always have and always will do. Things like these:


1 comment:

Anne said...

I missed out on another PT adventure.