Posts Tagged ‘public transportation’

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NTKOG #103: The kind of ‘roided-out angerball who, when life gives her lemons, punches a fruit vendor in his big ugly face.

I am: passive; afraid of touching people ever ever ever.

I am not: one for fisticuffs. Which you can probably tell. By the fact I call them fisticuffs.

The Scene: B-Line T, going from my apartment to Harvard Ave. It’s empty for a Wednesday morning — approximately half the seats full, but I stand in the alcove by the door because I do not have far to go. There is only one other dude standing with his back to me, a few feet away, between me and the exit. Half-Asian guy, college-aged, six feet tall and buff but also bulky, like he makes it to the gym every day then rewards himself with a few hot dogs. He’s wearing one of those puffy astronaut coats and standing, inexplicably, in the middle of the aisle.

Doors open and I start to dash off the train to my bus, which is already waiting across the street, when the guy suddenly spread-eagles himself between me and my chance getting to work on time. He reaches his arms up so that one is grasping the top rail on each side of the aisle, then spreads his legs so he is in jumping-jack position. His head kind of lolls to the side.

“Excuse me,” I say. His head lolls a bit more in the other direction. “Excuse me!” I prepare to run for the other exit, blaming kids these days with their earbuds and their weird subway-riding calisthenics, except right as I turn I realize — I have a clear shot of both ears. Guy isn’t listening to music. He’s just ignoring me. I”m the kind of girl who puts up with crap like that every day but no, not right now.

“DUDE, I need to get by!” I bellow like a moose, tapping on his shoulder through the puffcoat. “You very seriously need to move RIGHT FRIGGIN’ NOW!” He starts aimlessly scratching his nose.

So, I did what any normal girl would do. I punched him.

Okay, and before y’all start making citizens arrests all up in here, two points: 1) My biceps aren’t exactly registered as lethal weapons. Before the advent of touch-screen phones, I could barely punch in a phone number. 2) It was a punch in the middle in the back of what I’d call “no, seriously, stop tickling me!” strength.

Did the trick though. The dude instantly twirled on his heel, face a grotesque mask of slowly realized rage. The second he turned, I ducked under his arm and ran off into the morning.

I swear to you, though, and you can believe this as you like, that when I looked back, I locked eyes with the middle-aged woman who had been sitting in front of him, and who had witnessed the whole thing. She stared at me for one intense second, then slowly gave me a thumbs-up.

The Verdict: Man, I haven’t punched anyone since that time I punched Muscles — excellent to brag about! Terrible thing to actually do as a human being, of course. I would obviously never do this again (even though, really, the punch in question was more akin to a strident “scuse me!” shoulder tap, and the placement more than anything is what upped it to punchitude). Still, this did make me feel kind of like a take-no-shit commuter, which is a feeling I need to harness on those days when I stand passively by while strangers sneeze in my face and take gum out of my pockets.


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NTKOG #100: The kind of self-appointed assistant deputy to public health who, when you sniffle within earshot, primly flicks you a tissue and lectures you on the dangers of backed-up nasal cavities.

I am: loath to reprimand strangers for sneezing on my neck, let alone snortin’ and snufflin’ in the privacy of their own noses.

I am not: like the total queen of hygiene, anyway. What?! Kleenex are good for a few uses if you’re desperate!

The Scene: The train, smack in the middle of cold season. All week the mellow music on my iPod has been accompanied by a sort of auditory slither — the juicy slurp of fifteen syncopated noses trying desperately to suck snot back out of view.

There’s kind of a little dance that goes along with it too, on the T. The cold-sufferer will stand there, looking pained, ’til a tiny glisten appears under one or both nostrils. First, a long discretionary snort back. A moment later, the snot starts sliming back down and two more hard sniffles in quick succession. Finally, the human mucous factory glances around, reaches up with one hand to pretend to adjust their glasses or scratch their forehead, then quickly rubs their palm across their nose, smearing a snailtrail of snot on their glove. Elegant, right?

More distracted by the sound than anything else, this week I carried a travel pack of Kleenex with me, determined to be a tissue-toting guardian angel for these noses in need. The first guy I approached was a middle-aged business man, wearing a sharp grey suit and slightly snotted leather gloves.

“Hey,” I  turned around and told him, “You want a Kleenex?” Dude looked surprised and a bit mortified, but smiled warmly and thanked me when I handed it to him. I nodded and turned quickly so I’d be out of his splash zone when the snot went flying, but — nothing.

When I turned back to face him, he was gingerly patting the tips of his nostrils with the unsoiled Kleenex. He crumpled it and shoved it in his pocket. Three seconds later: sniff. snort. herk.

DUDE, YOU HAVE A FUCKING KLEENEX! You can blow it now! You can blow it all over town!

Next girl I approached was a chick around my age, who had just discreetly wiped a semi-solid chunk of green snot onto the cover of her US Weekly as she raised it to turn the page.

“Kleenex?” “Thank you so much!” I watched out of the corner of my eye as she crumple the Kleenex, dabbed her nose with exquisite gentleness, then shoved the Kleenex in her purse. By the next stop, her dripping snot had rendered her upper lip as glossy as the picture of Brangelina she was drooling over.

A few similar experiences (“Thanks!” for nothing, apparently), and I was down to the last two Kleenex in my pack, with nary a cleared sinus cavity to my name. This time, there could be no mistakes. A grungy looking college guy, wearing a Thrice beanie and a military surplus blazer, sucked back on his snot like he was pulling off a bong.

“Dude, want a Kleenex?” I asked, smiling encouragingly. Then, so he wouldn’t feel embarrassed or alone in his infliction, I put the last Kleenex to my own nose and blew it thunderously. Dude glanced at me with grim curiosity, before putting his own Kleenex to his nose — and slowly dribbling air AROUND HIS SNOT! Dude friggin’ pretended to use the Kleenex rather than blowing his dang nose in public!

Of the nine Kleenex I gave away — to people who were having serious and visible problems with, oh, I dunno, getting snot all over their faces?! — not a single friggin’ person could get over the bodily-fluid embarrassment and just blow their stupid noses in public! These are, presumably, people who shower in locker rooms, use public restrooms. Hell, they probably even spit on the street. And you’re telling me that nose-blowing is the one do-not-cross line?!

The Verdict: A bally waste of Kleenex, I’ll tell you that much. Next time I’ll be saving them for myself.

I was beyond shocked by these results. In fact, shocked twice-over. First, dude, if a total stranger offers you a Kleenex, clearly this implies that you’re either making a serious sinus-related ruckus or are unsightly to behold. It’s like a stranger offering you gum. It’s practically impolite not to put the offering to use!

Second, and more importantly, dude, blowing your nose is just about the best thing you can do with your clothes on. I friggin’ love blowing my nose — don’t even try to front like you don’t like it too. I mean, I’m not talking about a runny nose or a stuffy nose, but, y’know, the mid-cold feeling of a nose that’s fully packed with boiling-hot mucous, then blowing it so hard that it makes you dumber. Such release!  Such a sense of accomplishment! I can scarcely look at someone suffering from allergies without sighing wistfully! And the idea of having such a juicy nose and a Kleenex in front of you and DENYING THAT OPPORTUNITY?! It’s like masturbating in a brothel.

People on the T, you continue to disappoint me.

Whoa, it’s my 100th post! And in lieu of doing something badass or celebrating, I chose to … reveal my weird nose-blowing fetish. ’cause apparently I’m that kind of girl. Also the kind of girl who totally TMIs you on this glorious TMI Thursday.

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NTKOG #62: The kind of girl who channels her inner diva and hits the town with obscenely platinum wannabe-starlet locks. In wig form, natch, ’cause who really has the IQ points to burn for bleach?

I am: a brunette, through and through.

I am not: especially desiring of attention through the way I dress. Unless it’s for something stupid-awesome like my machete necklace or pipe-smokin’ fedora.

The Scene: Saturday night, early evening, on the heels of my non-disastrous date. Remember that time I put on a Lady Gaga-ish blonde wig and slipped out into the sunset? Okay, so, for the cinematic date exit, that was a stroke of genius. For the duration of the T ride over to my wig-themed pub crawl? Aaaaaawk.

Yes, I took this with my iPhone in a bar bathroom. Because I am ALL CLASS, y'all.

Yes, I took this with my iPhone in a bar bathroom. Because I am ALL CLASS, y'all.

The walk over to the T station, I was trailed by a few high schoolers who kept whispering and giggling just out of my auditory range. Stop obsessing, I chided myself, but by the time we all stood at the T platform, it was obvious that I wasn’t just making it up: they were definitely commenting. Whatever, guys. You’re in high school. Talk to me when you don’t still think handjobs are cool.

Then, when I took my spot on the T, people’s attentions grew more intense. The people around my handhold polite-awkwardly averted their gaze (no doubt wondering why my social life is so much cooler than theirs). But the worst was a leather-tanned WASPy lady on the other side of the car, weighed down by dozens of boutique carrier bags and flanked by a few botoxic minions. Gossip Girl: The Minivan Years, is what I’m getting at.

She sat there staring at me, then nudged each of her friends in turn and shot them significant glances at me. At one point, she caught my eye and shook her head in slow motion. The breaking point was when a total stranger stood in front of her, and she violated all rules of T etiquette by nudging the stranger and mouthing “Look!” over in my direction. Being TKOG, I strode across the car and grabbed a handhold close to the lady.

TKOG: So you seem to be admiring my hair.
Serena Van der Bitch: It’s very unusual.
TKOG: I’m not sure what you think is so weird about this. I mean, I’m in the flush of my youth, it’s a Saturday night and it’s drinkin’ time, soooo…
SVdB: Oh. I was wondering if–
TKOG: Dude, did you think it was a chemo wig? Look at this raggedy mess.
: No, I was just wondering–

But at that point, the train came to a stop, so I shot her my best Mets-steps bitchface, spun on my (four-inch) heel, and stormed off haughtily.

Not long after, I was sipping my first beer at the wig pubcrawl and a gorgeous girl in a similarly platinum array joined our group and squealed: “Do I look okay? I must look horrible! The whole ride over on the T, I was convinced everyone thought I was a drag queen.” I immediately assured her that she was so feminine, no way anyone would ever–ohhhhhhhhh shit.

Searching and fearless personal inventory of my look: Platinum blonde Anna Nicole Smith hair. Broad shoulders. 5’11” in heels, with another few inches of teased roots.

Shit, dudes. Shit. I guess that explains why she was staring. Man, though, I wish I’d known what the T-bagger was thinking at the time, ’cause I totally would have started hitting on some straight-laced business men in my best husky drag queen voice. That really would have given her something to talk about.

The Verdict: Hey, so you know my little rule about how you’re not really the center of the universe so quit obsessing over yourself because nobody even notices all the weird stuff you’re doing in public? Um. That doesn’t apply to accidental drag, apparently. Awk. But I’d totally do it again because, dude, if there is one thing TKOG is down with, it is the blurring of gender roles. And pushing boundaries for uptight on-lookers!

As for the wig crawl, on the other hand, I’d scarcely advocate it. A few sips into my second beer, it became apparent that the girl I was talking to was in fact gorgeous-insane, and halfway through her second blow-by-blow description of her breast reduction surgery, I returned the baby blue swarovski crystal headband she had slipped onto my wig (without my permission!) and beat a hasty retreat.

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NTKOG #51: The kind of affectionate, magnetically vivacious woman who doles out hugs like candy at a parade and punctuates every conversation with casual contact.

I am: an armchair person, not a couch person. As in, I will not even sit two people to a three-person couch with someone I have known for years. And if my leg accidentally grazes yours, rest assured I will apologize until you become semantically satiated with the word “sorry”.

I am not: super comfortable with personal contact. Can you tell?

The Scene: In an effort to grow slightly less neurotic about never touching anyone ever ever ever, I’ve been attempting to — um, touch strangers in what I consider to be inappropriate ways? Okay. That doesn’t sound quite as noble when you say it aloud. Nonetheless, a trio of interactions:

The Acquaintance Hug: A few mornings ago, one of my co-workers entered the office in a fairly deflated mood. She’s usually warm and vibrant, very sweet girl, but whatever combination of events — some confluence of relationship and finances and all the thousand slights the world sometimes likes to heap on you before breakfast — had chipped her veneer.

“Dude,” I said, standing up. “You need a hug?”

I was only a little horrified when she actually folded herself into my awkwardly proffered embrace. Then I stood there, not moving, waiting for her to leave. Apparently she didn’t think it was weird, and I was glad to be emotionally available, I guess, but dude: not. a. hugger.

The Coquette Tap: I see women all the time who, when talking to a man, will flirtatiously tap on his arm to get his attention or signal that he ought to pay attention to the totally brilliant thing she just said. This, to me, is weird. I mean, shouldn’t your voice and face be all the verbal italics you need in conversation? Is the point of the tap just a reminder? Hey! Bodies! We have them! We maybe could use them to hook up as a result of this conversation?

No single story here, but I’ve made a conscious effort to use this technique when talking to random guys I meet — especially on the T, where we’re stuck sitting in close proximity anyway. I tend to reach out for the casual upper-arm tap to underscore the fact that I’m joking when I say mean-funny things, just to lighten my tone. Because, yeah, I’m one of those smart girls who’s kind of a jerk to guys. Regret to inform! Basic results of this: the guys don’t seem to notice it one way or the other, but I always feel profoundly awkward afterwards.

The Fist Bump: Last night, as I was wandering around Cambridge trying to find the School of Government for a professor’s office hours, I got hopelessly lost and decided to ask the next grad student-aged passerby for directions. A guy passed me and I tapped his shoulder. When he spun around, I saw he was cute. Cutecute. I mean, so attractive that he was almost ugly — like a young Robert De Niro with designer stubble and the kind of Mediterranean beachy blue eyes you just want to bathe in.

TKOG: Uh, excuse me, do you know where the Kennedy School of Government is?
Seriously Movie Star-ish Leading Man: I’m sorry, I have completely no idea where that is.
TKOG: We. We have so much in common right now.
SMSLM: Yeah, I’m really feeling that bond.
TKOG: Pound it?

I offered him my fist and he switched his cigarette to the other hand and, y’know, knuckle-bumped, then — weirdly, amazingly — used his cigarette hand to pull me into a, like, slightly bro-ish but non-A-frame hug. I was afraid for a moment that his cigarette would burn my hair. But, guys, I kind of didn’t care. I mean, this guy was too cute to even be talking to me, let alone hugging me on a street corner.

After a second, he pulled away and wished me good luck finding the School of Gov. Which I basically floated to on a cloud of deep personal well-being.

The Verdict: Um, movie-star Harvard guys? You can hug me all you want. Everyone else? Look, I’m sorry, and don’t take it personally, but I’m just going to go ahead and sit on my side of the couch and you can sit … on another couch … in another house … and maybe we can just email each other. Unless you’re on my “people I couldn’t live without” list, there’s just no reason we ever need to touch!

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NTKOG #37: The kind of girl for whom life is her dressing room, and who flashes some skin as easily as most people flash a smile.

I am: modest; not naked.

I am not: even comfortable with some of the fashion trends endorsed by today’s youth, let alone removing them in public.

The Scene: A rainy Friday in Cambridge; I have left work for the day to interview for a job in one of the many institutions on the hahvahd campus. It is my intention to wear my totally gorgeous Serious Dang Interview Suit, but as the day is gray and drizzly and the suit costs half a month’s rent, I wear a normal shirt and cardigan to work, and am carrying a garment bag carrying the suit jacket and a sleeveless silk shell.

Under normal circumstances, pressed for time though I was in getting to the interview, I would have two option: changing into said suit before I left work, braving serious wrinklage; or else getting to the interview site exceedingly early, finding a nearby Starbucks, storming in and straight to the restroom (pantomiming the conveniently universal must-wash-hands-before-even-contemplating-ordering gesture), and then quickchange, sashay out, and problem avoided.

But what if in this strange, glorious world of ours, a third method might exist? After the forty minute bus ride, I hopped out of my bus to realize that the weather had slowed down to the barest drizzle. Before I turned onto the correct road for the interview, I gripped the garment bag with my teeth, peeled off my clothes down to a definitely-wouldn’t-wear-in-public cami in the ever-popular “girl’s gym class” mode of modest disrobement, snaked my clothes out of the bag, got suited up, and repacked the garment bag into my oversize purse. And you know what? Surprisingly not awkward. I mean, one guy walked past and asked, “Shouldn’t you have done that at home?” but otherwise, nobody took notice. Not even the cluster of Cambodian buskers I realized too late were standing only about a foot away from my quick-change act.

On the way home, the rain had picked up, and I decided to change back out of my suit while on the bus. On the way in, psyched to continue my experiment, I walked on to catch an eyeful of the belly of a totally shirtless dude. BEATEN TO THE PUNCH! Then it became evident that the guy, a cute-ish dude in the back of the bus with mushroom cloud hair, had merely accidentally removed his shirt wile taking off a sweater. The only seats available were in the back, near him, so I got myself situated on a side bench and followed suit on the whole, y’know, “clothes: now you see them, now … not so much?” maneuver.

Once everything was where it belonged and covering what it should, I looked back at the guy and saw him smirking.  “Hey,” I told him, “It looks like you started a trend back here.” But he couldn’t hear me, and left his stuff in his original seat to move a bit closer to me, although not in my bench. He asked why I was changing and I mentioned I’d had an interview; he was interested and polite, but kept stumbling over my use of simple phrases like “gatekeeper” and “psycho screening.” Great job, TKOG, I was just beginning to think — way to pick up a guy with a slight mental handicap, when the bus quieted and I realized he had a small accent. German. Interesting.

The conversation heated up further: for some reason, he made a reference to the show Big Bang Theory and said the guys on the show reminded him of himself; I asked if he was into physics and he said he had been (!!! To say I have a slight interest in physicists would be like suggesting Jack the Ripper had a mere passing fancy for prostitutes; although unlike Jack, my interest falls short of any internal organs–I’m sorry, what were we talking about?), but now studied theology. At this point, his original seat has been stolen and we’re shouting over the body of a man sitting between us, so I pat the empty seat next to me and he sits down, his knee grazing mine.

And then things get weird.

TKOG: So where in Germany are you from?
German Former Physicist: Munich.
TKOG: Oh, sweet! I’ve never been there, but I have a friend who lived in Berlin for a while, and absolutely loved it. I’ve been there too and would love to go back.
GFP: Ha! Berlin is [gurgles mucous in the back of his throat in lieu of a sufficiently offensive term] — nobody wants to go to Berlin. It is too liberal and socialist. The streets are filled with homosexuals and everyone believes in socialim. People from Munich are very conservative and Christian, and we do not want anything to do with Berlin.
TKOG: Oh. Yeah. Well, I mean, what’s considered conservative in Europe is often very liberal by US standards.
GFP: You are from California? Is it true that gay marriage was outlawed there? I thought it was overrun with homosexuals.

Detecting that he wasn’t going to drop the unpleasaant new theme of conversation, I starting giving monosyllabic grunts in response to his rants, but the floodgates were already open. For nearly ten minutes he went on a tirade about how socialists were bankrupting Germany and how they should be shot in the streets like dogs. Dear god, I thought, a puppy-killer on top of everything.

So, imagine this, mostly, but plus one Cosby Sweater, and replace the snazzy red bow tie with a crazed eye-gleam.

So, imagine this, mostly, but plus one Cosby Sweater, and replace the snazzy red bow tie with a crazed eye-gleam.

Finally the crazed young Joe McCarthy pulled his Cosby sweater back on and prepared to get off the bus — right at my stop. I waved goodbye and watched him walk off in the rain, before sneaking out of the bus at the next stop and skulking home through the homosexual and socialist-littered streets that I so adore.

The Verdict: Changing yo’ dang clothes in public: dude, not even a problem. The lesson is, I suppose, a recurring theme of this project: you are not the singular center of the universe, surprisingly enough, and if you want to do something, dude, just go ahead and do it. Nobody is going to give you a hard time, so might as well make life convenient for yourself.

The other lesson I learned through this experience? The same damn lesson we learn every day, Pinky: You can meet guys on the street or in a bus. Heck, you can even talk to guys you meet in the street or on a bus. But you cannot make any meaningful connection with said guys because they are all bunny-boilingly insane. Sigh.

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NTKOG #34: The kind of girl who — like Dudley Do-Right with a nicer chin — constantly waits for opportunities to offer up her subway seat to the old, the infirm, and the really-quite-pregnant.

I am: a total competitive sitter on the T. It’s not even so much the sitting I love as the thrill of, ha!, beating you chumps to the seat!

I am not: likely to ever even glance up, once I’m situated. After all, how can I get through four novels a week if I all be lookin’ around in civic alarm every time I hear the clunk of a cane or the beseeching moan of an arthritic old woman?

The Scene: On the ride home from work several days ago. I have finished my book on the ride in, so am listening to the Hairspray soundtrack and frenziedly glancing about, like a cornered squirrel, for someone upon whom to bestow my coveted lounge. The whole time, I am mentally pep talking myself: “Look at you, dude, being so nice! Yeah, you should do this all the time! It’ll make up for missing all those years of Sunday school! You’re practically Laura friggin’ Ingalls now, you gorgeous-hearted bastard!”

At Park Street, a woman gets on and stands in front of me for a bit. Her skin is a bit pasty and foams up to a few hard-looking pimples, but she has really beautiful bone structure. Her abdomen is eye-level to me and I notice the swell of her belly under a bulky forest green sweater. Pregnant! Time to altruism it up!

I pack up my earbuds and make eye contact with her as we come into the next stop. “Do you want my seat?” I mouth, and she smiles and says, yeah, why not. So when the T stops, I pick up my bag, make room for her to scoot in, then take her former position, standing directly in front of her. There is a strange, uneasy itch in my brain, for some reason.

Pregnant Woman: Wait, you’re not getting off? Why’d you give me your seat?

Oh god! She’s wearing five-inch purple stiletto heels. Half of her belly kind of squishes above her jeans, and half below, instead of being a hard, unified mass. There is a pack of cigarettes on her lap. SHE IS NOT PREGNANT. Not a little. Not even at all.

TKOG: –I work in an office and was sitting down all day and was like well I don’t need to sit down anymore so maybe someone else wanted my seat?

I attempt to smile winningly, then look away. The woman is frowning and visibly perturbed. She puts a hand on he belly and starts surreptitiously poking it. At one point she raises her eyes and starts to ask me a question, but I look away. She pokes her stomach a few more times, then, mercifully, gets off two stops later.

Bonus Really Quite TMI Element to the Story: Running parallel to this thrilling tale of my not being a total jackass, another horrifying moment that you might not want to read? At some point over the course of my commute home, it became apparent to me (women’s intuition?) that my period had just started. Like, I mean, on the dang train.

As I offered the girl the seat, I had a momentary blink of paranoia: “Jesus, TKOG, what if you bled through your skirt and there’s blood all over the seat?” and when the girl leaned forward to move something on the seat, I had the horrible realization that she wasn’t pregnant and I had just basically called a girl fat and then potentially offered her a blood-smeared seat on the train we would be sharing for at least half an hour.

Are you there, God? It’s me, TKOG.

Fortunately, when the non-pregnant woman sat fully down, she had a magazine in her lap that she hadn’t been carrying before, so I’m believing (or choosing to believe) that I had been sitting on the magazine and she just saw it and decide to read it. The magazine. That my spontaneously menstruating self had been sitting on for half an hour. …oh. oh god.

The Verdict: As always, the one guiding rule of humanity: if there is any ambiguity, dude, just go ahead and assume people are not pregnant. Although, as terrible as this encounter made me feel, for the days since then, I’ve been mentally primed to glance up and notice people who may want my seat, and have offered it to the elderly and the infirm (forget you, pregnant chicks!). Some have taken it, some have not, and I feel like less of a total jerk from day to day.

This horrifying bout with Mother Nature (who apparently always wins) submitted for the approval of the hilarious LiLu‘s TMI Thursday. Because what’s the point of smearing bits of your uterus on people if the whole internet can’t enjoy it?

Also, apologies for the lack of a Lorrie Moore story. The signing was Harry Potter Party-packed, and the tiny basement was packed before I could get a seat. (Come on, Brookline Booksmith! I love you, but NOBODY PUTS LORRIE IN A BASEMENT! Still, it was good to see the house packed for literature.)

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NTKOG Follow-up: The kind of tireless social crusader who, undaunted by her UTTER failure to get loud-music earbud wearers to turn down their friggin’ music, reloads her arsenal with new techniques.

I am: a couple of weeks away from making headlines. “Four high schoolers bludgeoned in brutal seriously-are-your-earbuds-even-plugged-in?! train beating.” Contact me for the exclusive interview.

I am not: exaggerating.

The Methodology: I was prepared, after my last failure, to give up on trying to make the T a soothing environment, but your comments spurred me on, my cherished advocates for social change. We don’t have to listen to other people’s music! We should be allowed to read in peace on the damn train! I AM TAKING BACK THE SOUNDWAVES! So I brainstormed a few variations on the straight-forward ask. My results:

Variation 0 — Charades: Some of you made reference to some sort of miraculous international “turn down your volume” gesture. What is it, guys? I’m seriously drawing a blank. I’ve tried making eye contact with people and pantomiming turning a volume knob counter-clockwise. Nothing. Putting my hands over my ears and shaking my head. Nothing. Pointing to my ears then downward. Apparently I’m the worst at charades! HELP!

Variation 1 — Mock ’til They Stop: The offender was a cute fake blonde carrying an iPod in a screaming pink Roxy cover and wearing little martini glass earrings — cosmos or appletinis, one can only assume. Over the course of the stops, her music blared on in a rapid spiral of shame-pop. Sean Paul “Get Busy” descended to Lady Gaga, which degraded further to “Fergielicious.” Once her earbud-cum-speakers started thunking out “Play That Funky Music White Boy,” look, guys, I was honor-bound to save the car from plumbing any further depths of her musical taste. I waited for a lull in the bass, then pounced:

TKOG: I love that song! It’s great! And you’re so brave!
Funky Music-Loving White Girl: What do you mean?
TKOG: Well, I mean, I think that song’s great, but everyone makes fun of me. I could never have the courage to play it in the T for everyone to hear!
FMLWG: [flips me off and turns the other way, accompanied by the opening strains of “Living La Vida Loca”]

Variation 2 — Monkey See, Monkey Do: I got on the train and sat next to a pretty long-haired hippie chick. Someone near us was playing music too loudly, though I couldn’t see who, and it made me self-conscious. So I took out my earbuds and (sincerely) asked the girl: “Is my music too loud? Can you hear it? I’m sorry to be weird and ask, but I’m always afraid it’s too loud.” She assured me it was fine and smiled back.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her picking up earbuds from among her ringlets and plug them in her ears. Then she cranked up the volume to maximum, until her music was throbbing in my head, and I finally turned off my own, graciously defeated.

Variation 3 — Killing Them With Kindness: No particular anecdote for this one, but I’ve used it three times so far. It’s more a technique, than anything. Basic conversation:

TKOG: Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but what’s that song you’re listening to?
Music Offender: What?
TKOG: That song that you’re listening to on your iPod. It’s pretty cool.
MO: You can hear that?!
TKOG: Yeah, but don’t worry. I just wanted to know who sings it.
MO: [gives the name of a band that I obviously don’t care about and will never listen to, but in the process either realizes their error and turns their music down, or at the very least, gives me a bemused but not venomous smile]

So far, it’s been my best bet. I’ve gotten two music turn-downs — better than any of the other techniques I’ve tried.

The Verdict: Turns out it is actually possible to persuade people to turn down their music! But it takes much time and effort, and about half the time actually resulted in people turning their volume up. (Which would have happened more, I’m just guessing, were some people not already at peak volume.) Between that and Justice not-so-sweetly suggesting that I belong on the National Registry For National Over-Interactors Who Don’t Deserve Public Transportation, it might be time to give up this quest.

However, looking at my results, I am choosing to believe that the vast majority of too-loud-listeners are not inveterate, hateful nun-punchers, but rather people who are not totally aware of their actions. And if they react with hostility or even do not react to polite, kind entreaties, it is only because they are defensive out of embarrassment!

I know, I know, I’m a gullible fool and they’re all hanging out together right now, listening to a mishmash of death metal and saccharine rap-pop, strangling a sweet little nonagenarian in her own holiday sweater. But I’m trying to have faith.

Anyone have any more fail-proof variations?

(Also, dudes, my apologies for the mega proliferation of T-related stories lately. I swear I’m not becoming the kind of girl who rides the train back and forth all dang day, praying to strike the awkward lode. But tonight I’m going to stalk Lorrie Moore so tomorrow I promise: no trains. Unless I follow her onto one.)

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