Train Wreck

This afternoon, on the subway uptown, I was looking around the car as I always do. I don’t read on the train or listen to music, because as disagreeable or even revolting as the experience may sometimes be, I don’t like to miss anything that’s going on during the ride. That means I see (or hear) a lot of stuff that I really wish I didn’t, but that’s just the way it goes.
When things are slow on the subway and no one’s doing anything noteworthy, I look at the passengers and try to find one good thing about each of them. See, I go about it this way: Everyone is guilty of being ugly and repellent until my scanning eyes can prove otherwise. None of this “innocent until proven guilty” nonsense for me. Nope.
So I was scanning the crowd, and not having much success, and trying with most of my might to find “pretty eyes” hidden underneath the greasy gray bangs of a particularly hideous woman, or “nice fingernails” on an otherwise atrociously non-descript one. Nice shoes. Cute mittens. Something. Anything. And I failed. Miserably.
So I was a failure by dint of the crowd’s failure to show me one good feature that would somehow elevate at least one of them above the slouchy, shabby masses. Disheartened, I turned to my other subway game — one where I always win.
In this game, I am always a winner because the subjects are always such losers. This game involves my finding one stomach-wrenching physical feature attached to another passenger. And I am never disappointed. Disgusted, yes, but not disappointed.
Today’s winner by a landslide was a woman who got on the train somewhere above 42nd Street. She was probably about 50, slightly stocky, neither tall nor short. She wore a dark blue coat that was crusted with what I would have thought was toothpaste — if only I believed she ever made its acquaintance. Some sort of dress or skirt, whose ragged hem escaped from the bottom of the coat. “Nude” pantyhose that bagged at the thick ankles that supported feet whose bloat could barely be contained in her scuffed dark blue “skimmer” pumps. (She did get “props”, as the kids say, for color coordination.)
Her face was rubbed full of orangey foundation and powder; her lips smeared with lipstick. The shoe-polish black nest of curly-wavy hair atop her head appeared more manageable than her matching eyebrows. The fingers that gripped the pole (not 12 inches from my face) were host to unkempt fingernails under whose tips resided more dirt than chipped reddish nailbox on their surfaces.
All of these details would have been enough to keep me transfixed, but then I saw the pièce de résistance, the one thing that, above all, kept my eyes riveted to her as if she were a particularly gory accident scene. And that was this: From her nose sprouted thick, spiky, dark brown hair that had enough heft to actually hang a full 1/8 of an inch from her nostrils, like tobacco in an over-stuffed hand-rolled cigarette.
I don’t know whether I was more repulsed by the sight or delighted by its discovery. All I could think was, “Ladies and gentlemen … we have a winner! Madame Lucky Strike … by a nose!”