As I sat down on the bench in the subway station and opened up the New York Post, hoping for more dirt on the “Astro-Nut” story, I cautiously eyed the man who was standing near me. “Hey, baby girl,” he said to a woman sitting near me. “Hey, white girl, I like the coat,” he said to another passerby. He was clearly in that happy and obnoxious state of intoxication where he thought the world was fascinated by his every word.
He babbled on and on. The woman he was directly in front of mostly ignored him, laughing nervously every now and then.
Then he turned his attention to another woman listening to her iPod a few seats away. “Get out of my face!” she shouted at him. Naturally, this had no effect. He reached out his hand to touch her cheek. She smacked it away and shouted “Out of my face!” even louder.
Immediately, without thinking, I sprang up. “Get away from her!” A couple other large guys moved toward us. The guy had already been begging me with his mindless, seemingly cheerful but actually aggressive babble, but now he’d crossed the line.
Of course he just wouldn’t get the message, and kept trying to move toward the iPod woman. And he started to get angry. I put myself directly in front of him so he couldn’t get near her. He started to focus his attention on me. “Go somewhere else,” I said firmly, but this just produced an angry stare from him. I repeated it. He tried to push past me, and I blocked him. He tried to shove, and I shoved back. Another, bigger man near me pushed him down.
When he got up he was even angrier. He reached in his pocket, and it occurred to me that he might have a knife. I found that I really didn’t care. All that came out of his pockets was a bunch of crumpled-up used tissues, though.
Despite our having been put in the position of antagonists, I found myself feeling sorry for him when the other guy pushed him to the ground. He was more looking for attention than malicious. He really didn’t seem to get the situation, and seemed to be surprised at the vehemence of our response. Of course, he was still trying to go after the iPod woman, and we kept trying to head him off.
The train pulled into the station as an MTA person, an older woman in a red blazer, showed up, talking into a walkie-talkie. “See, now the cops are on the way, so you better get going,” I said to the man. I really just wished he’s go somewhere until whatever he was on wore off. He took no heed.
“No, let him stay, then he’ll get arrested,” the MTA woman said. Everyone got on the train, and I could see a cop arriving.
On the train the woman thanked me, as she talked in Spanish about how obnoxious the “hombre de la calle” was with some other Spanish-speaking people.
The whole thing made me more sad than angry. Someone said the guy had done the same sort of thing before. Maybe he’ll get arrested, maybe he won’t (all the other people involved got on the train), but whether he is or not, he’ll just get out and pull more of the same sort of stunt.
You can’t really forbid people to talk to strangers. The only thing I can think of is a sort of compulsory etiquette school, similar to anger management classes or the traffic school you have to go to where they show you films of mutilated babies. Obnoxious street-person school—an idea whose time has come.
Also perhaps he’ll learn not to bug me before I’ve had a cup of coffee.