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I have a question about manners. Twice in the last couple of weeks I've been stuck behind someone reading a book while walking. Actually, let me be more specific – they were reading a book while walking up the stairs in (and out of) the Montrose Avenue L station. Am I wrong to feel homicidal rage? Sure, reading is a great thing – we should all educate and enlighten ourselves – but isn't it the height of obnoxious behavior to slow other people down, gingerly taking one's time walking up the crowded stairwell because you can't stop reading for one minute?
What's a polite way of telling people to put the book down and speed the f@#k up? Or should I resort to something physical, like "accidentally" headbutting their posterior or tripping them? How would you handle the situation?
Bookwhacked in Bushwick
The perpetual onslaught of bodies is one thing about the Big ol’ Apple I’ll never get used to, especially at this time of year. I mean, can’t people go somewhere else? Can’t I? Constant awareness and consideration of the space you’re occupying is part of the unspoken contract everyone signs who commits her/himself to living in the bedbug fast lane we somehow call home. People who break the social contract should promptly check themselves or go the hell back to whatever podunk hill they thought they were king of. Yeah, we’re all here, we’re all oh-so-important, and we all got somewhere to be. But then again, maybe total denial of those around us is a survival mechanism for the mess we got ourselves into by living here. Pretend you’re the only one here (or the only one who matters), and you won’t notice that New York City has crushed you like a bug.
The New York subway truly is a marvel to behold. While impressed with (and grateful for) the ease and efficiency, I never cease to be amazed by our subway’s abundant sensory violations and the horrifying behavior it seems to bring out in humankind. It’s nothing short of an obstacle course from hell, complete with piles of human shit, broken jars of skidding prunes, drunken projectile vomiting, icky toenail-cutting guys—and that’s on a good day. Why is there always some dude spreading his legs (and newspaper elbows) as wide as possible (that huge cock’s such a burden!) while some girl next to him cowers in the smallest contortion she can maneuver? Why is someone’s snooty bag roosting on a seat while other people must stand after a hard day’s work? Why can’t people let you off the hellish L train before body-blocking their way on? Why I gotta suffer shitty taste in music blasting through someone’s own special waste of an iPod? Goddamn – at least cell phones don’t work underground… yet!
Which gets me to your question. Why does some pseudo-intellectual think it’s okay to be so unaware of themselves and their surroundings that they’re reading while walking in this sardined city of ours? Are you really the only person in existence? Oooh, you’re so deep! Get a room! Get a life! But hmmm… how to deal with this? You could politely ask them to get their head out of their ass. Why ruin a perfect day spent in the clouds? “Excuse me” will suffice. Depending on your mood, you could step it up with a little pass-agg, “Hey, you should check out this awesome book called ‘Subway Etiquette for Assholes.'” Then of course, you could throw an elbow. Bumping into someone tends to send a clear message: “Get out of the fucking way.” I mean, if they can’t (or won’t) negotiate space, why should you? Though it might help to give a nod at sorta pretending you didn’t mean to run into them afterward… just so ya don’t get beat up or anything.
Who reads anymore anyways? I thought eight years of Bush whacked that all outta us. Good luck out there, buddy.
Allison Wolfe, an identical Scorpio twin and Tennessee native by way of Olympia and Washington D.C., is best known for her early role in the Riot Grrrl revolution of the 1990s, the zine Girl Germs, and singing for the influential band, Bratmobile. Allison has also performed with Cold Cold Hearts, Deep Lust, Hawnay Troof, and Partyline, and helped start the Ladyfest movement. She's our favorite Thai speaking/feminist/activist/manga comic English adaptation writer/ soothsayer punk and we love her penchant for calling people out and giving it to 'em straight. Allison is going to make you a better person; all you have to do is send your questions to news at brooklyntheborough.com with ASK ALLISON in the subject line!