The worst thing about commuting is it gradually turns you into an arsehole. (I’ve read that, for less money, cocaine can achieve the same effect.) In the bigger cities there are, unfortunately, many more bottoms than there are seats. Overcrowded trains cough and splutter into overcrowded stations – and even if you do succeed in parking your weary backside, chances are some unutterable bastard in the seat behind you will be fast asleep and snoring. Great, guttural, heaving snores. And there will be signal failure, or someone inconsiderately dying on the tracks ahead – sometimes accidentally, sometimes by design – necessitating another dread delay.
Frankly, becoming an arsehole is inevitable. The best you can hope for is to contain the symptoms. Shove and elbow strangers on the subway, but not during lunch. Think hateful thoughts on the bus, but not back at home with family. Steal quick furtive glances at pretty women – the back of their necks, their reflections in the window – on the train, but stop short of becoming an actual weirdo creep. (Sorry, but it’s a fact of life: boredom will eventually always sneak below the waist.)
But then there are the days you also have to face THE COLD. At seven in the morning and again 11 or 12 hours later: the angry, seething vicious cold. And for too long – a wild, ragged age – you will have to do so outside. Because the train is late. Its metal wheels on metal tracks too miserable to spin any faster, and its engine a frigid ghost of a thing.
Today, in New Jersey on my way into New York, it was about 8F (-13C). Or when you throw “wind chill factor” into the mix about -15F (-26C). It was so cold that I briefly considered killing myself – if only fractionally, it would have cheered me up. Yes the train was late, but the really pressing question was by how much. Five minutes or less and basic motor functions would probably still get me on to it. Any more of a delay, however, and I’d have to call in sick (or, rather, with me in coma someone else would have to on my behalf).
How cold was it exactly? I had so many layers tucked into my trousers I could scarcely do my belt up – and still they weren’t enough. (On an unrelated note: I must get some more ice cream to go with the last two slices of pecan pie in the fridge. Finish up that cheesecake and bread pudding too.)
My eyeballs were cold. That’s how cold it was. Recently, on a day much less cold, I took my daughter outside and it was so cold she actually started to cry. Maybe I cried today, too, but I wouldn’t know. I lost all feeling in my face a second or two after leaving home.
Turning to see a train finally approaching, the wind lashed my face with such rare fury that it rearranged it into a cubist Picasso. One eye westbound, the other east, and my nose sniffing out some place warmer to the south.
How cold? Even too cold to be all that much of an arsehole.
Today’s post soundtracked by: