On Sunday you got to glimpse my well trod shoe collection. When I need to get from Point A to Point B, I walk and use mass transit…


mass transit….

Mass transit had a lull the past few years, but as vaccinations go up and restrictions go down, more people are using it again. Alas, we also have a situation here where mass transit has it’s share of criminals, homeless, drug addicts, and those who appear to be mentally unstable. This makes it quite the mix of people travelling on the daily.

So one day I was on the subway. There was a guy…let’s just say that while I did not do an evaluation, I would say the guy had some issues.

So the guy is standing in the middle of the somewhat crowded train, and he’s screaming that we are all sinners and we need to repent, except he’s saying it slightly nastier, with a threatening tone.

As someone who has spent her adult life riding mass transit, I know enough to keep my head down, read my book, and not even look in the vague direction of this guy. If you avoid eye contact, you can usually avoid direct confrontation.


Today was my day to me the recipient of direct confrontation. After he got in the face of someone three feet away, he chose to stand right in front of me and scream at me.

Fun times.

I know the guy is definitely off…and probably high as well…and using a threatening tone.

I am avoiding looking at him, because I don’t know what that will unleash…but I catch the eye of a guy to my left, holding the pole. He’s about six feet tall, solidly built, probably in his 30’s. He nods at me: he sees what’s happening and he’s got my back. He positions himself so that he can help if necessary. I always try to see if I have an ally, or if I can help someone…it’s sort of my unwritten rule of the subway- don’t leave a person behind, even if you don’t know them.

The guy finishes his tirade at me…and though it probably lasted less than a minute, it was still terrifying…and his next target is my ally…

I watch the situation, and want to show my support and I have this guy’s back, and all I can think is that this fit young guy must be thrilled to have the short old woman with the ereader ready to back him up…

Luckily the train pulled into the station and the guy got out and everyone left in the car let out a sigh of relief and we all looked at one another and the thought was clearly that we survived that one unscathed…and this was a story to tell about life in the big city…Remember- this whole incident took place in less than four minutes. Four minutes feels like such a short amount of time, but it feels never ending when you are scared.

This incident, and others like it, leave their mark. I’d seen many of these confrontations on the subway in the last 40 years, but this was the first time the person stood in front of me and shouted at me…It’s haunting. This hasn’t stopped me from riding the bus or the subway, but it does make me more alert…reminds me to be aware of my surroundings… I also need to realize my limitations. I am older, I don’t run as fast, nor am I as agile as I once was. I like to think that age doesn’t matter, but alas in situations like this I am not as able to defend myself as I once was. And to be clear, sometimes you can’t defend yourself no matter what, no matter what age or size or whatever.

This was just another day in the life. These are the moments that shape us.

70 thoughts on “Fun Times on the 4 Train

  1. I ride mass transit also so can identify. I find time of day helps. Not too early and definitely not when work or school is out. But it really is my preferred mode of travel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LA, you are such a great storyteller. What a powerful moment you describe – of fear but also of unspoken communication and ability to create allies. I have no doubt that if the guy had done something for the 30-something man, you would have had his back and in doing so, encouraged others to do the same.

    Your close, “these are the moments that shape us.” is so powerful. Yes, they are – both for how we deal with that fear but also for how we prepare for standing up for someone else.

    Brilliant and evocative post!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. So very true that sometimes you can’t defend yourself no matter what. How scary this must have been for you! The fact that you still are brave enough to take the subway is commendable.
    Fortunately, you weren’t hurt. Life is pretty crazy sometimes and there are A LOT of nutcases out there.

    Many years ago when my 48 year old son was a toddler, my home was broken into and I was awaken in the middle of the night only to discover a strange man hovering over me wearing a mask. When I tried to fight him off his strength over powered me, so I knew I had to rely on my wits alone. I often wonder if I would have had the courage to think on my feet if it hadn’t been for the fact that my son was sleeping in the bedroom next to mine and all I could think about was protecting him . To make a long story short, I escaped with my life. I was stabbed, mentally scared, but I survived. It was terrifying.

    For years I’d awake at night in a cold sweat shaking in fear. Eventually, I overcame it, but to this day I’m careful about being in situations where I might be vulnerable. I was young and spunky back then. Now I’m spirited, but certainly not physically Able to outrun anyone. (I did take self defense classes after that!)
    It’s a strange realization to know your vulnerabilities. However, the good thing was that you were in a public place, you found a protector of sorts, and you kept your wits about you. And you survived the ordeal. I applaud you for holding it together, LA. You are a strong woman!! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it was realizing how vulnerable I am that got me…not that we aren’t always vulnerable, but age does add to it. I’m sorry you had to experience a break in and physical injury. That’s so hard to endure and deal with


  4. A man on a bus once reached over and grabbed a piece of paper that was in my hand in order to write his phone number on it. I felt so violated. Public transportation can be very scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know ultimately you take the stance that letting things like this interfere with living your life isn’t an option. I also understand the wariness and outright fear which will now nag at you after this event. I imagine there will be uneasy feelings for some time and I’m sorry you had to experience this LA. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! That would have scared me for sure! You are so right how depending on the situation a few minutes can seem sooo long! Very glad you made it through physically unscathed and I hope in time the memories and fear of the moment can ease. Yay to the man who had your back, there are good people out there. (((Hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t usually take public transit alone. We’re either going to a concert or a game and most of the people who are there are going the same place we are. Not that there aren’t crazies who go to concerts or games. Most of the time I’m oblivious to my surroundings and I probably should pay more attention when walking through the parking lot to my car.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That sounds terrifying. Your writing is so good it made me afraid for you. My son rode BART to work pre COVID and called to tell me the most horrific stories, like when a drunk homeless man sitting behind him, threw up in his seat. Also, he watched a homeless person defecate in a plastic bag. I don’t know how he did it. He’s working remotely now. I don’t miss the stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I watch the situation, and want to show my support and I have this guy’s back, and all I can think is that this fit young guy must be thrilled to have the short old woman with the ereader ready to back him up…” I’m sorry to laugh hysterically at the source of your trauma but this got under my funny bone! I understand how episodes, short in duration, long in impact, can influence the way you approach mass transit in the future. I believe you landed on the message ~ stay alert because we can’t run as fast! Hugs, C

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for sharing. By having the nerve and courage to share, we all get stronger. I have read some interesting recent stories of riding the subway in NYC. I am glad everything turned out okay!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. For moments like those I took a class in Krav Maga and insisted my daughter do the same – she worked at a hosptial in a very bad Baltimore neighborhood. Often walking 2 or 3 blocks late at night to her car. I am glad your experience didnt go south.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great share, LA. I’ve been in those situations before, in some very dangerous areas, and you handled the situation like the city pro you are. They are indeed terrifying, and these experiences do shape us, yet don’t define us. Scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a scary tale that I wish you did not have in your repertoire. You have some good tips for the uninitiated (like me), but when it comes to the end of the road, anything could have happened no matter how prepared you were. The guy was clearly outside the loop of anything that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am so glad that you are okay and that there was someone else there when you needed them. Always good to know that you are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You really brought this episode to life. I’m glad you got the eye-connection with the young man and that nothing truly awful happened. I think the worst thing that ever happened to me on public transportation was a guy falling asleep on my shoulder and snoring in a greyhound bus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I once had my lunch thrown back at me after I tried to give it to someone who said they were hungry…but for the most part I’ve witnessed this sort of situation from a few feet awa

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sounds like the young fit guy who had your back, just ignored him too? Made me wonder what might have happened if there had not been a stop and the disturbed guy had not gotten off….I too was glad to hear that young man let you know you were not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When someone appears to be crazy, I’ve learned ignoring is the way to go…I’ve seen people try to reason and reason just does not work. To be fair, if the guy hadn’t gotten off, the passengers probably would have

      Liked by 1 person

  17. You’re right LA, positivity isn’t what you need to get through something like this. Accepting that this is the cost of living somewhere you love and taking all the steps you can is indeed, pragmatism. Big city living isn’t for everyone – I loved it, Himself hates it. But now I’m older and creaky, I’m probably better suited in a smaller town – the pragmatic choice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Terrifying. But I’m like you, when I see someone is acting off, I do everything possible to avoid eye contact. Unfortunately (as in your case), that doesn’t always work. I can’t imagine dealing with that on a regular basis. The subway system is such a foreign concept to us Midwesterners. LOL STAY SAFE!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. There was an attack on the Portland light rail in 2017. Some idiot started shouting racial slurs, took out a nice, and stabbed two completely innocent strangers to death. Injured a third. That ended up being a big catalyst for us to pack up our lives and move to the Midwest.

    Don’t get me wrong. Bad things happen everywhere. But there will never be a light rail attack here because there is no light rail. Ha. (We’re more likely to freeze to death when it’s -10 out.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. To be fair, there were many other factors that went into our decision. That alone never would have prompted a move. But when we weighed the pros and cons, it definitely made the negative list a little longer.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Those sort of confrontations are so draining, it can take a long time before you feel normal again. I’m so sorry….no one has the right to do that to another person. Clearly, something was wrong with that man, but it’s not an excuse to abuse someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Not sure they shape us but they certainly wake us up, especially given the recent shooting on the subway. In this case/situation, it might be one of those risk/reward considerations. Glad yours was one of the more normal/usual situations one could expect as a general subway rider.

    Liked by 1 person

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