There’s an understanding regarding seat selection on a subway train. Don’t sit right next to someone until you have to. The way this plays out on the A Train on weekday mornings is that you’re sitting by yourself for one or two stops, but by the time you get to 168th st, every seat is taken.
So it was a few days ago. I chose a corner seat on a bench of three seats so that I’d have only one person on my right and the partition on my left. The middle seat of my bench was empty. A short woman in her late 40s, dressed neatly, occupied the third seat. I read my book.
After a few stops, a younger woman in jeans wedged herself into the middle seat. Business as usual.
Around 168th or 145th, the woman in jeans got up and headed toward the exit. At least that’s where I thought she was headed. She crossed the aisle and found a newly vacant seat. But it was also a middle seat between two other people. And one of those two other people was the short/neat woman form the third seat of my bench.
I held my gaze for another instant to make sure I was correct. Short/neat caught my eye and looked away quickly. I felt the blood drain from my face and sweat break out all over my head under my hat. The two people who shared my bench had bolted to the exact same position across the aisle at the first chance they got.
Was I the cause? I am usually acutely aware of how I might impact a train’s environment.
An Odor? I had showered and deorderized less than 30 minutes prior to their flight. My clothes were clean. I gave my shirt, jacket and hat discreet sniffs just in case. All clear. There could be dog shit on the soles of my shoes, but I couldn’t check right then. Music too loud? I whipped my headphones out of my ears. Not even a feint guitar scream escaped.
Oh God, could I have passed gas on the subway? I was not paying attention, but I cannot believe that I did. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that just can’t slip past you in public. My book isn’t even that good - since I finished the Martin books, I’m trying to remain unenthralled for awhile. If I am going to trust something about myself, let me start here.
I finally looked around. I missed the first exodus, perhaps I missed an offensive presence enter our area as well. I scanned the train but didn’t see anyone that looked like they used their pants as their bathroom. And at this point I realized that whatever it was that sent those women across the aisle, I had not noticed it. I had not smelled, heard, or seen anything out of the ordinary.
I arrived at my stop and I had to get out. I was shaken; couldn’t think of anything else. I checked my shoes on the platform. Nothing. I’ve tried to let it go, but once in a while I return to the mystery and want an answer. And it’s not coming.
[Featured Image via Zoo Y0rk]