Taking the F train into Manhattan from my part of southern Brooklyn can be a bit of a challenge, especially with construction that started in 2016 and is slated to last into spring 2018 — with no direct or weekend service.
My nerves were fraying as I boarded an F train on a recent Tuesday because the trip also meant having to make a few stops toward Coney Island before being able to board the train in the opposite direction, heading into Manhattan.
I glanced around for a quiet car before boarding. I’d armed myself with a bottle of water and some snacks in case we got stuck, which we usually do. For distraction and entertainment, I also brought a crossword puzzle, a book and my needlepoint, enough to keep me occupied for the nearly hour-long ride.
At some point, a tall, imposing man standing near my left, but who moved around often, shouted at anyone daring to cross his path. He also made a point of invading the personal space of the unfortunate riders sitting or standing near him — including elbowing some of them.
Seated in front of him was a short, elderly woman. Just before the Bleecker Street/Broadway-Lafayette Street stop, she stood tentatively and said, “Excuse me,” but he crowded in on her and refused to budge. He moved his arms around her to block her way. “It looks like you’re going to miss your stop,” he boomed as he cruelly obstructed her exit. Finally, with seconds to spare before the doors slid shut, he moved, and she made her way out.
I was not sitting close enough to have said or done anything. But no one closer helped, either. Perhaps we were shocked and couldn’t react in time. Still, I wish I would have summoned my inner Jessica Jones or Wonder Woman, pushed through the car and done something. But what if he’d pulled a gun or knife? What then?
I cried later that afternoon, wondering what it felt like to be the woman on the train. Or maybe it was my own feeling of helplessness and disgust.
The moment and others like it experienced by friends and relatives seem to be repeating often on the subway lately. I hope they amount to a blip rather than a trend. I hope they don’t signify NYC backsliding to the way it once was.
Rachel C. Weingarten
is an author and lifelong Brooklyn resident.