Riding the E Train

E Train

Dear MTA,

Typically I take the C train from my Brooklyn home into Soho in Lower Manhattan where I work. It’s about a 30 minute ride in which time I usually stand clutching the pole and rapidly reading while I’m jostled to and fro. By the time we’ve crossed under the Brooklyn Bridge I have a seat for the last ten minutes of my trip. The ride is so short I barely lift my eyes from my book, pleasantly embracing the extra thirty minutes my commute allows me to read.

Every now and then I vary from my schedule and I stay the night with my family in Queens which means I jump onto the E train in the morning and take the hour and half commute down to work. On these trips I usually read for the entire trip but my mind doesn’t stay as focused. I get on at the very first stop of the E train so I have a seat the entire ride and am able to do more people watching over the lid of my book. Not to mention there always seems to be excitement going on in the 90 minute trip through all of Manhattan.

This particular day I jumped on the E train and pulled out The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. At Roosevelt Station a woman struggled to get on with her bags and stood in the now crowded train with all of her bags leaning against the door in which she had just entered through. This being New York, seeing travelers with their bags is nothing new or different but what caught my eye was the way she was struggling with them. She was a large woman tall and very wide with platinum blonde hair. She was wearing a bright pink sweat suit and the slightly tight pants stopped just above her ankles. Once the train started I went back to the adventures of Santiago getting lost once again in the fable based on simple truths and places in a highly unique situation.

By the next stop the Bag Lady had caught my attention again. She had begun to scratch her blonde hair and as she did I noticed with each time she raked her fingernails across her scalp her entire head of hair moved in the direction of the rapidly moving fingers. Obviously frustrated with her wig she snatched it off of her head revealing the bright pink of a bare and shaved scalp.

Bald woman

I tried to hide my shocked expression by keeping my face hidden behind my book, never taking my eyes off this spectacle. With the wig in hand now she was able to relieve her itching scalp and once she did so she began picking through her wig, removing matted pieces of hair ball that had become trapped in the hair as well as lint and other fibers hard to spot with the naked eye. Each time she pulled something from the wig she balled it between her fingers and flicked it out towards the center aisle on the E train.

Around 34th street a seat became available for the Bag Lady and she gave a content sigh as she sat down, dragging her bags so they now blocked a good portion of the aisle. Once she sat down she began rolling her sweats up. It was a little warm but they keep the new E trains fairly temperature controlled so I figured this was either a personal summer she was experiencing or there was a point to her sudden need for skin exposure. Mesmerized I watched as her once sweats became bikini bottoms, harsh red bands marking areas on her legs where the bottoms had become too tight to roll and where forced to cut into her skin in order to raise higher. The rolling continued evenutually revealing her desperate need for a razor and a good wax.

Bikini wax

At this point she stood up and turned her back to me fumbling in her bag for something. As I tried to return to being engrossed in my novel for the last few stops I wondered why the train had grown to standing room only again and then noticed everyone had given the Bag Lady a wide berth (the entire bench actually) and chosen to stand instead of sitting next to her. This didn’t bother her at all and she picked her bags up from the floor of the train and began laying them out along the bench. Once she found what she was looking for she lifted one of her large legs and firmly planted it on the bench. She then opened the bottle of lotion, squirted a generous amount into her hand, slapped both palms together in a rubbing motion and then began applying lotion slowly and carefully to her now bare leg.

Once again my eyes began to bug out the side of my head and I have never been so thankful for the conductor to announce my stop. I gathered my two work bags and rushed off the train, only glancing back to see the anguished faces of those still left to journey the last couple stops with the Bag Lady.

Love Always,


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