3.25.2007

Stories from the N Train

It’s Saturday, late afternoon, and I’m riding the N train from the last stop in Astoria into Manhattan. Four stops in, all seats now taken, a small man, early 30s, boards the train. He’s an angry-faced punk: black hooded sweatshirt, piercings, silver wallet chains hanging from the belt loops of black jean cutoffs.

The punk’s left leg, from the knee to the black high-top sneaker, is made of a shiny metal prosthesis. His right leg is covered in a fresh white cast. He’s using crutches and winces with each step. He addresses the sedate group, flatly.

“This is the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done. I lost my left leg. And this week, I broke my right leg. I don’t have any money. I need Ace bandages, pain medication, and food. When I get off the train, I need to take a taxi to my house because I don’t think I’ll make it if I walk. I’m asking you, begging you, to give me money.”

He stops, leans both crutches against a center pole. He removes his prosthesis, showing the crowd his stump—covered in a bloody, torn Ace bandage. He reattaches the prosthesis, and begins a belabored lap around the train to collect his charity. But nobody gives.

One by one, each of the three or four dozen train riders—male, female, old, young, well dressed, poorly dressed, Mexican, Chinese, Wasp, Greek—diverts their eyes as the man waves his cup expectantly across their laps. Finally, defeated, he takes a seat at the end of the car.

“This ain’t a fun life,” he says, shaking his head disapprovingly. “I can assure you.” The guilt washes over me, and as I try to catch the eyes of my complicit neighbors, I feel theirs, too.

By the time we reach Lexington and 59th Street, the train is packed, and that uncomfortable silence has been replaced by the rustling of newspapers and giggling of a few freshly Frappaccinoed teenagers. The doors close, the train lurches forward, and a petite, cheery-faced woman begins to sing.

She has a beautiful, resounding voice. She’s singing an aria; sounds Italian to me. She’s making her way, slowly, through the crowd, holding her trendy newsboy cap upside-down to receive contributions.

She nods politely to the passengers as, one by one, the vast majority give her $1, $5, even $10 bills.

She gets off two stops later, still singing. I look around for the punk, but he's already gone.

16 comments:

The Polynomial said...

I, too, remember one time on the subway when an attractive, put-together, white twenty-something began strumming his guitar and singing an original anti-Bush song. He made out like a bandit. I think the (very talented) girl who plays violin in the 23rd St. 1 stop does decently as well. Nobody ever gives to the HIV+ guys or women saying they wish they had the courage to jump in front of the train. In-group/out-group, I suppose.

BrainLova said...

I wonder...you may be right. On rare occasions, I do give money to people on the subway. Sometimes it's a musician, sometimes a dirty drunk, sometimes a charismatic "inner city basketball coach"...And immediately afterwards, I always wonder: why that one, this time?

A neuroscientist friend of mine recently suggested that the biggest factor is credibility: nobody wants to be deceived. If a woman says she has seven kids to pay for, and you give her money, and she uses it to buy her next heroin fix, then you'd be a schmuck. Performers and musicians would make more $, then, because they're inherently honest (either they can play the violin or they can't).

Dunno if this theory works with my punk, though, since he was clearly telling the truth about his prosthesis... so maybe here it was the in-group/out-group factor.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe no one gave. The bloody stump would show he was not a con-artist! I would have given! I don't always give - but in this case I would have given. I often wonder if the person I pass up really did need it. I know for a fact the person I pass up most likely needs it more than me. I know a begger can often make more than a minimum-wage job. But how can we know the needs of the person we pass. How are we to judge? Who are we to judge? Is it better to give to someone who is a con rather than to pass up someone who has real needs? I am just thinking outloud now. But then I once spent six months in Rehabilitation Hospital following an automobile accident. This is why I know I would have given to the punk! I saw the anquish first hand . . . and occasionally feel the humiliation.

BrainLova said...

I agree, it does feel disgusting to pass by someone so clearly in need. I guess another factor, though, especially for those of us who live in a big city, is the sheer number of people who ask for money every day. At some point, I do have to start drawing up criteria...just don't know why I choose certain factors over others.

Anonymous said...

bbq book -
blogging in action -
body building revealed -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
carb rotation diet -
chopper tattoo -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
cure for tinnitus -
debt free in three -
driver checker -
duplicate file cleaner -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy member pro -
easy tv soft -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
end your tinnitus -
fap winner -
fat burning furnace -
fatloss4idiots -
fat loss 4 idiots -
final sync -
final uninstaller -
firewall gold -
fitness model program -
fit yummy yummy -
flatten your abs -
forex auto money -
forex auto pilot -
forex confidante -
game tester guide -

Anonymous said...

governmentregistry -
government registry -
healthy urban kitchen -
higher faster sports -
homebrew installer -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
i am big brother -
instant profit machine -
i want a teaching job -
joyful tomato -
lose man boobs -
lower body make over -
macro virus -
magic of making up -
make money taking surveys -
malware bot -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
meet your sweet -
moles warts removal -
money siphon system -
muscle gaining secrets -
my airfare secrets -
my miracle loans -
my out of control teen -
natural cancer treatments -
ovarian cyst cures -
pc optimizer pro -
piano for all -
prevent sweating -
privacy control -
publicrecordspro -
public records pro -

Anonymous said...

pvp bible -
quick article pro -
quit smoking today -
reg defense -
reg genie -
registry easy -
registry genius -
registry smart -
registry winner -
registry winner download -
reg tool -
relationship headquarters -
reverse mobile -
richard mackenzie direct -
rocket japanese -
rotator cuff training -
satellite tv pc master -
secrets book -
spy no more -
spyware cease -
survey scout -
the bad breath report -
thedietsolutionprogram -
the diet solution program -
the guru assassin -
the power pause -
tmj help -
tonsil stones remedies -
turbulence training -
two minute profits -
Auto Content Cash -
Banner Ad Blueprint -
Copy Paste Systems -
Every Other Day Diet -

Anonymous said...

Farm Ville Secrets -
Plugin To Green Profits -
Rapid Mass Traffic -
Tinnitus Miracle -
Tweetomatic Profiteer -
Woodworking 4 Home -
24 Hour Internet Business -
Blogging To The Bank -
Burn The Fat -
Earth 4 Energy -
Fap Turbo -
Fat Burning Furnace -
Fat Loss 4 Idiots -
Foex Auto Money -
Hemorrhoid Miracle -
Legit Online Jobs -
Magic Of Making Up -
Magni Work -
Micro Niche Finder -
Plr Article Software -
Pregnancy Miracle -
Software Submitter Pro -
The Affiliate Code -
The Diet Solution Program -
Truth About Abs -
Zygor Guides -
vincedelmontefitness -
vince del monte fitness -
warp speed fat loss -
web traffic machines -
wedding speech 4u -
wind plans -
xp repair pro -
your fun business -

Anonymous said...

zygor guides -
500 love making tips -
acid alkaline diet -
acne no more -
advanced defrag -
anti spyware bot -
art of approaching -
banish tinnitus -
beat eczema -
blood pressure normalized -
burnthefat -
burn the fat -
conversationalhypnosis -
conversational hypnosis -
cpa arbitrage -
creative date ideas -
debt free in three -
digital background -
dirty talking guide -
discus fish secrets -
duplicate file cleaner -
dw insider -
earth4energy -
earth 4 energy -
easy tv soft -
easy web video -
eatstopeat -
eat stop eat -
end your tinnitus -
error doctor -
evidence smart -
fap winner -
fat burning furnace -
fat loss 4 idiots -

Anonymous said...

final sync -
final uninstaller -
firewall gold -
fitness model program -
fit over 40 -
fit yummy yummy -
flatten your abs -
forex auto pilot -
gain opinion -
gold secrets -
government records -
governmentregistry -
government registry -
green diy energy -
healthy urban kitchen -
highest pay surveys -
holo think -
homemadeenergy -
home made energy -
i want a teaching job -
joyful tomato -
keyword elite -
learn photoshop videos -
lmt forex formula -
lower body make over -
macro virus -
malware bot -
maternityacupressure -
maternity acupressure -
meet your sweet -
microcap millionaires -
moles warts removal -
money siphon system -
muscle gaining secrets -

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Awesome website, I had not noticed brainlova.blogspot.com before during my searches!
Continue the superb work!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered the fact that this might work another way? I am wondering if anyone else has come across something
exactly the same in the past? Let me know your thoughts...

Anonymous said...

Hey,

I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at brainlova.blogspot.com.

Can I use some of the information from this post above if I provide a link back to this site?

Thanks,
Alex

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at brainlova.blogspot.com have a mirror or another source?


Thanks,
Charlie

Anonymous said...

top [url=http://www.c-online-casino.co.uk/]casino games[/url] check the latest [url=http://www.realcazinoz.com/]casino online[/url] free no deposit bonus at the chief [url=http://www.baywatchcasino.com/]spare casino games
[/url].