In the many months it has been since I’ve updated any of my writing, much has changed in the life of good ole’ John Black. The biggest change, aside from the fact that I’m now in a different state but back to a location more central to Manhattan, is that I have more or less simply taken my old set of nightmare commuting parameters and instead replaced them with new ones. You see, kids, I have recently moved to a wondrous and promising land – filled with the most interesting types of people one can find, with a luscious scenic view of industry and all of its many effects on the local landscape, where the sounds of airplanes flying dangerously close to your roof can be heard frequently overhead, and public transit is so majestic that it can’t be bothered with descriptors such as “frequently on time” or even “barely passable” – a land known to the people of New York City as “Fucking Jersey.”
With all kidding aside, I’ve made it no secret that I often invite and even welcome the insane into my life because, well, it makes it a lot more goddamn funny, and that’s where I tend to thrive. So, when presented with the opportunity to witness something completely and utterly absurd, of course I am going to take it, because what is life if not the pursuit of laughter?
I worked late this past Thursday night, prepping for the impending snow storm, then headed back to Penn Station, otherwise known as “Hell on Earth,” to catch a 9:35 pm train home. There are two legs to my journey: one quick 10 minute ride to the slightly more tolerable and better kept Secaucus Junction, then a quick layover there before transferring to a final 10 minute train to Wood Ridge.
Normally, to make things easier for both myself and my fellow commuters (I know, what a bizarre concept, right?), I stand in a small vestibule area between two inter-connecting train cars like a lot of people do because the trip is so short. It’s completely safe, but every now and then you get a conductor who is a real stickler for safety that will ask you to go inside the car, which one of the guys manning this particular train did. He seemed pretty stressed out, so I made no issue of it and complied, taking a seat a couple of rows away from the door. Why bother, right?
A couple of minutes later, two men got onto the train and stood in the same spot that I was just in, as the conductor had walked ahead. I noticed that they were having a conversation – which is pretty normal for strangers on a commuter train, and usually something you’d usually just tune out – but something about the man on one side of the conversation, doing most of the talking, struck me as rather strange. As my brain started scanning him, I noticed a few things:
- He was in a suit, which is normal, but he was very disheveled, with a cut on his lip.
- While his suit led me to believe that he was a working professional, he was seemingly lacking any sort of winter coat or apparel that any rational person would normally not think twice about wearing to shield themselves from the 19-fucking-degree weather that he currently just boarded from.
- When the doors would occasionally open and I’d hear bits of the conversation, he literally sounded like a mentally retarded person.
Now, mind you, I was extraordinarily tired at this time, so my brain wasn’t operating at the usual speed, but after taking into account those three points, I was quickly able to determine that this man might actually be the most intoxicated, giant neanderthal of a human being that I had ever come across. Of course, now I was interested.
The train began to move shortly after I processed this information, and I could see from behind him that the same conductor from earlier was beginning to make his way back from the other car to start taking tickets. At this point I began to ponder that I was about to be graced with the gift of bearing witness to something incredible, quite possibly one of the greatest interactions I would see all week – Hell, possibly ever. You can be sure as shit that my pondering proved to be correct.
I wasn’t close enough to open the door to hear it, but after the conductor entered the vestibule where the two men were standing, I knew he was going to ask them to move inside. Little did he know, he was about to be met with the babbling drunken opposition of the giant, intoxicated, incoherent, bull in a china shop of a man that stood before him.
Within seconds, the already stressed and rushed conductor was having a full blown psychotic episode on the guy. I’m talking hands flailing, shouting, aggressive pointing, the whole nine. I think it actually made it more enjoyable for me that I couldn’t hear through the door what they were saying and had to rely solely on my other senses to take in this exchange.
Eventually, Drunkie complied, following the other man he had been talking to; however, he had spent so much time trying to argue the case that pressing a fucking button and moving a foot inside the door was such an offensive movement for him to make that he did this a solid 30 seconds before he was set to get off the train. Unbelievable.
When the train pulled in to Secaucus, I got off alongside a slew of other people, most notably Drunkie and the guy he had been talking to earlier. In the brief walk over to the elevator, I realized that the other man wasn’t someone he knew, but was a random good Samaritan who had originally been trying to help the giant buffoon he happened to come across, but was now heavily regretting his decision.
“Drunk man walking!” The Big Shit-Show shouted as he boarded the elevator. “Haha!”
Once on the elevator with the two of them, as well as a small group of other people, I ended up with Drunkie on my left, the guy who had been helping him behind me, and the others peppered else ware. Upon getting a close up look at the guy, I thought to myself that if he hadn’t been in a heavily disheveled suit, and I instead just passed him on the sidewalk in the city, I would’ve been convinced he was one of the homeless drug addicts I normally see floating around near my job.
At this point, the man who had been helping and conversing with him this whole time had clearly reached his full capacity for rational human response, and was now anxiously losing it trying to get away from this incoherent over-sized Neanderthal that we were all stuck in a confined space with as soon as possible.
“Man. Haha. Man, Brother, that is a nice fucking coat.” Drunkie muttered to me in broken English, likely freezing his balls off having abandoned his winter-wear in whatever Midtown, bottomless pit, shady establishment had likely thrown him out after far too many Jack & Cokes. “*Hiccup* I bet you spent four hun’ dollars on that coat. Hehehe! Yes! Man, if I had a coat like that, you know I’d do? I’d fucking wear it, brother.”
I’m not sure if he was expecting me to give him the coat off my back, but all I could do was just giggle uncontrollably at the absurd situation I had just managed to put myself into.
Once the elevator let off, the now completely enraged good Samaritan made one final nice gesture by helping Drunkie scan his ticket through the gateway before running faster than a Kenyan athlete in an attempt to remove himself from his own personal nice guy Hell. Drunkie followed suit by also running… straight toward the news stand to go make some very important purchases. I made my usual way down to good ole’ Track H to wait for my next train. But my entertainment was far from over.
Mere minutes after getting down to the lower platform, the raging bull came bursting out of the double doors from upstairs, armed with a bag filled with a snack and an energy drink, and starts barreling toward the end of the platform, stumbling and trying to repeatedly spit onto the tracks. At this point, I began to become somewhat concerned that he may fall onto the tracks, so I trailed behind him a bit just to be safe, lest anyone not see him take a turn for the worst.
When he was all settled at the end of the platform, the defining moment of his night came with the game time decision to open up his fly, whip out his penis, and start to pee all over the platform (not off of it, mind you, on the platform), in front of myself and any number of other mortified people, all the while giggling to himself and saying, “Sometimes, a bear gets you, Brother. Sometimes, a bear gets you.”
Verbatim, that is exactly what he fucking said.
Horrified people began clearing away from the fountain of Doof in any direction they could go. A small number instead just kind of stood very still, watching this disaster unfold, as if unsure as to whether or not they were actually witnessing this happen or if the day had finally come where the Jersey commute had eventually made them completely lose it and start hallucinating. As I reminisce about the looks on their faces, it was almost like watching frightened deer remaining absolutely still, hoping to not make their presence known to the giant bear that was relieving himself nearby.
Just about as he was “wrapping up,” my train started to pull in to the station. For a moment, I had doubted whether or not he’d be on a different train, but those doubts were quickly silenced as I watched the no-shorter-than-6’5″ newly nicknamed “Bear” board not only the same train, but the same car as me as well. The sick thing about this is that I am such a sadistic weirdo that I find all of this absolutely hilarious, and immediately began giggling beyond control that I was about to get some more entertainment on the last leg of my trip home.
The Bear found himself a home by falling into and eventually taking up the entirety of a four-seater, ones that are typically reserved for, you know… four people. I stood in the indoor vestibule, primed in camera-ready position to potentially offer the world a glimpse of the drunkest human on Earth at that very moment.
He sat, uncomfortably shuffling and squirming for several minutes before beginning to drift in and out of consciousness. Before long, I could hear the conductor coming. It was all I could do to not squeal with joy as I stood there, waiting to witness yet another psychotic break from an NJTransit employee trying unsuccessfully to communicate with an intoxicated passenger, but surprisingly I was met with a completely different scenario.
As he arrived at the now physically strained four-seater and gazed upon the seemingly bloated and lifeless wild animal that had collapsed within its confines, the tired conductor asked a question that he already clearly knew the answer to.
“Ticket?” asked The Conductor.
“You need… you need my ticket?” replied The Bear, pretending to check his pockets. “I uh… I don’t have it.”
“Cool. Here’s one.” said the wise, sage peacekeeper, placing a punched card in the appropriate slot on the back of the chair and immediately walking away.
The actions of the conductor were completely out of character for the average NJTransit Thursday night ticket collection exchange. The interaction seemingly told the story of a man who had all but checked out of the miserable Hell that must be his chosen career profession, but I guess you didn’t have to be a doctor to see that the passenger he could have argued with was on the brink of cardiac arrest, likely only being kept alive by the energy drink he’d just consumed.
Mind you, this entire time, I have been openly watching this whole scene occur and even taking photos and video, which was never realized despite the fact that The Bear looked right at me several times. Let that sink in.
With my time on the train ending soon, one final amazing action drew this hilarious commute to a close. The Bear, miraculously managing to stand himself up from his fallen state, walked right up to me, and asked me, “You chew, brother? You know, have any ‘bacco?”
When I failed him, he moved on, at which point he started walking into the neighboring half of the car and asked each individual passenger one by one if they were holding any chewing tobacco. I walked, chuckling down the aisle toward the door, looking back the entire time to try and catch a glimpse of any final interactions I could before getting off the train. For a moment before leaving, I almost considered going over an hour out of my way just to see if there was any possibility I could capture more of the magic, but the rational human being in me put the kobbash on that idea really goddamn quick.
24 minutes: That is the amount of time it took for this man to completely turn my commute into an enriching action packed blockbuster. Kiefer Sutherland? Kiss my ass. This guy should have his own half-hour prime time show that just follows his every move for that span of time each night. I would subscribe back to Cable TV in a fucking heartbeat.
Pretty standard Thursday night.