He knew what to do the minute he saw the words “no fee or documentation required.”
He was sitting comfortably on the B train perusing the fine print of the MTA’s new courtesy awareness pilot program, which allows New Yorkers to order free buttons saying “Baby on Board” or “Please Offer Me a Seat.”
The idea? To encourage straphangers to give up their seat to the needy. But he has other ideas.
He is needy. He deserves his seat. He is The Terrible Subway Man.
He has been taking the train since age 14 and the thought never once crossed his mind to “stand up for what is right.” And now he has a new way to make everything awful. He will request a “Please Offer Me a Seat” button, without even the hassle of forging a doctor's note. He fills out the form using the subway's recently premiered Wi-Fi network, just before hitting the dead spot after 145th Street.
In three weeks, the button comes in the mail. It is big and bold, its message obvious. “This will be perfect,” Terrible Subway Man says to himself gleefully, as he falls asleep to dreams of refusing to swipe his fellow New Yorkers into the subway even though he has an unlimited MetroCard.
The Terrible Subway Man Springs To Action
He wakes up and affixes the button to his stupid extra puffy North Face. He makes a mental note to request another one to put on the backpack he never takes off, not even on the 6 train.
He hops on the A, the Eighth Avenue line where equipment breakdowns occur 25 times per month, lasting an average of 19 minutes, snarling stations and crowding cars. Things have gotten so bad [http://gothamist.com/2017/05/09/mta_power_outage_at_dekalb_avenue_p.php] that the MTA just released a six point plan to try to deal with delays and poor service.
On the train, he points at his disability button from time to time. A little plaintively, like he didn’t want to say something but, you know. He makes a small stoic grimace. But the mass of New Yorkers shuddering along on the rush-hour A are too smart for that, and refuse to make eye contact with either him or his button. The Terrible Subway Man unzips his bulky jacket just slightly because it’s 85 degrees.
At Fulton Street, though, there is a mass exodus from the car and the miraculous happens: a single seat opens up on one of those sideways-facing rows. The Terrible Subway Man makes a break for it, his backpack smacking into the face of a gentleman wearing one of those U.S. Navy Veteran Proudly Served hats. The Terrible Subway Man doesn’t care. He boxes out the gentleman and his walker in the race to the open seat, and reaches it just a millisecond after a pleasant-faced wide-eyed 22-year-old clutching a copy of Bright Lights, Big City and a selfie stick. Noticing the big button, this clear newcomer smiles and cedes the field. And The Terrible Subway Man has won again.
The Eternal Menace
Yes, of course he is a manspreader. Indeed, he spreads so prolifically that his seatmate leaves, and he places his inexplicably enormous backpack on the seat next to him.
You would not be surprised to hear that he stays perched even as a swooning woman seven months pregnant stands nearby. He keeps his seat despite a grandmother standing grimly silent, just barely managing a single finger on the pole above her. Needless to say other people’s buttons don’t get him to stand either.
And so The Terrible Subway Man continues on through history.
He is ageless. He didn’t stand up in 1980 and he sure as hell isn’t going to now. He haunted the Q before it became the Second Avenue Subway and he’ll do it in 2190 when it finally opens downtown. He can be glimpsed taking up a row on a select bus service route out in Queens; calling for and cancelling Access-A-Rides near Clove Lakes Park; suspiciously marking time on the L before it closes for a decade or whatever.
He is the scourge who walks among us, and sits.