This is in the post office first, then the train, then the train station (Nostrand Avenue 3 train).
First, my post office. Post offices here in Brooklyn are a trip, or maybe it's just the neighborhoods I live in. There are five available windows, one of which is specifically designated for package pickups only. The whole thing is lined up with dingdong doorbell buzzer lights that let you know when "Station is available" and her perspex bulletproof plexiglass. You can only lift the window to slide your package across if the window on the other side of the corner is down through a simple notch and bar system--in this manner the clerk and you can never have actual physical contact or vocal exchanges that aren't through a wall. I call it the airlock.
There are other things in the post office. Note, the forty year old postal scale that's rusted away from balancing something. Note, the piles of paper trash stacked up around that scale. Note, the lack of any other papers, such as labels and forms, in the slots at the back of the corner holding the rusted scale and rubbish. Note, the stamp machine that blips in red atari pixilated marquee letters "WELCOME TO ST JOHNS POST OFFICE....FOR STAMP FOLLOW ISTRUCTIONS." What else? Oh, note that the stamp machine isn't dispensing change over 5 dollars, has gum stuck in its buttons, and, oh yeah, only is giving out penny stamps currently.
At any given time two of the five available windows have an employee behind them. The package pickup window I have never seen open. So the line is long, and the frictions is strong, and the fans are dusty and slow. I have heard muttered underbreath rants, everything from "it's the same shit every time i come in here" to "i have asthma" deep nasal snuffing inhaling, "this place is dank--i'm gonna report it. Where's your supervisor? Gone? At 3:30? I'll write a letter then, and I 'll mention that, too, cauze I KNOW he ain't supposed to be leavin that early."
Mostly I pretend I'm listening to my ipod, space out, and eavesdrop heavily.
And observe: this last time I saw a young boy--maybe 11 years old--doodling with his cellphone in one hand and the object he had the phone trained of in the other. It was a priority mail envelope an two bills of money. I looked closer. I zoomed in, and so did his cameraphone. One was a 100 dollar bill. Click! The automated fake camera shuttersnap sound came out of the phone, and on the LCD screen I saw Franklin's dumbass huge head and curly Age of Reason locks. Apparently, it IS all about the Benjamins.
Then something quieter, on the four train, and thank God, right? My day is quickly turning into my personal nightmare. Then I see a guy sitting across from me, a youngish--twenty something--white guy with close cropped hair and an olive drab zip up sweater. He's lost in the book he's reading, a book with a brooklyn public library stamp in the top pages and also drab colored, hardback. It's by Tom Wolfe, I can see that much at the top of one of the pages. Dunno which one. I guess Electric Kool Aid Acid Test cause that's the one I've read, but it may have been the Bonfire of the Vanities or The Right Stuff. I see a lot of the former being read on the train.
Anyway, he has this private moment that I get to peek into. he flips the page, his eyes widen--he's totally out of this world and enchanted by another one with either merry pranksters, yuppies from the 80s, or astronauts. Then he smiles in spite of himself, as he relishes something, as he feels an intimacy with the writer that he thinks only he is sharing. Guess again, sucka--I gotcha! Hooray!
This happens often, but I don't always write about it.
Today going down for the three train, going down the first steps, I see this guy talking a woman back up the steps and out of the station. He's holding and unripe tomato, and in some way I can't discern using the tomato as part of his schpiel, as a means of outlining whatever point he's trying to make. I get down the stairs, swipe my metrocard, and walk down more stairs to the manhattan bound 3 train platform . As I'm descending, and this is serious comedy here, Mr. Bean meets Opera, the man is there on the other side, asking for my attention. His head and arms and hands are framed and sliced by the black painted iron bars of the station. The tomato rests in one hand in the space between two bars.
"Sir, could I have your attention?"
He couldn't. I was having a bad day already and was angry at the world and besides i'm halfway down the stairs and i have an unlimited card--i can't give you a swipe and i don't have any change. But I didn't say any of these things. I just looked at him with my angry grimace, shook my head, and step by step descended. Put, put, put.
It got cold again. Bullshit.