11/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Zen and the Art of Subway Rage Avoidance

I am not being over-dramatic when I say that riding the New York City subway makes me realize that I am probably capable of murder. I'm a peace-loving person, and not blood-thirsty or evil, but the rage that builds up inside of me when I am forced to wait for the R train could, I think, easily go wrong were I armed with a dangerous weapon. One recent evening, after taking the 5 train to Union Square, waiting for 20 minutes for the R train which dropped me off at Pacific Street, and then waiting for 30 minutes for the N train (which, for no apparent reason, had switched routes with the R a mere two stops away from my home), I had stress-induced chest pains and my head filled with macabre fantasies of being assaulted by a bunch of street punks who would soon find out that they messed with the Wrong Girl. Normally I get a little skittish when I'm walking home alone after midnight, but that night I felt like a New York Post headline-in-waiting:

KEY-ZAM!! Brooklyn Girl Blinds Would-Be Perp With House Key

Anyway, that's just a long way of saying that I seem to have some anger management problems. Living in New York City probably doesn't help. In any given subway station, someone is always waiting to piss me off. For instance:

  • Men (and it is ALWAYS men) who keep looking behind them like you are following them. Newsflash: this is New York. Someone is always walking behind you. You are not on Cops.
  • People who stand in the subway doors and do not budge when the doors open, expecting you to maneuver around them lest they lose their coveted spot RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FUCKING DOOR. Also, why is it always a giant man doing this? Does he feel that it's not enough to take his usual spot filling three seats with his knees forming a ninety-degree angle to make room for what I assume is a painful case of elephantiasis of the testes?
  • People who allow their young children to disturb the small amount of peace one gets while riding a crowded subway. I am not talking about crying babies or fighting six year-olds. I am talking about a toddler with a hard metal toy who bangs it repeatedly against the seat of the subway making a loud clanging noise while his mother pretends not to notice. I do not normally think babies can be fairly called "assholes," but in this case I must reconsider.
  • People who walk slowly, or change direction mid-stride, or cut you off in line to board the train even though you have been waiting and they just arrived, or play boom-boxes or DVD players with no headphones, or allow their cell phones to ring repeatedly without bothering to answer or silence them, or lean against the pole in a crowded car, thus forcing you to choose between subway surfing or wedging your fingers beneath their shoulder blades, or eat fragrant fast food (I have seen people eating fried chicken and Chinese food on multiple occasions. I even once saw a woman eat soup. I have yet to see anyone eat anything that is remotely portable or easy to eat on the subway), or pick fights with other passengers, or preach about hell during rush hour (um, hello -- we're already there, pal).

Mayor Bloomberg has still not responded to my suggestion that now that the fare price is over $2, everyone should get a free taser, so the only way for me to be Zen about all of this is to remember three things:

  1. A lot of people on the subway are mentally unbalanced (in fact, I would wager to bet that at any given moment during rush hour, it is a given that you are in the same subway car as a crazy person).

  2. A lot of people have no manners, and this is not their fault, as they probably were taught that it is nice to share your loud reggaetron with a cramped car full of people.

  3. A lot of people are stupid, and this is also probably not their fault. This has to do with many varied combinations of nature, nurture, and schooling failures (of which I am also a victim), and while I may pity them, I cannot fairly hate them.

With these facts in mind, I've decided that my keep-cool mantra will now be "Crazy. Rude. Stupid. Blameless." Whisper it in the intonation of that old Nuprin ad ("Little. Yellow. Different. Better.") while drowning out the spoon-banging and Lady Gaga cell phone rings with some soothing Joao Gilberto on your iPod. Feel the love.