Losing it on the C Train

I don’t really listen to music on the subway.  It’s enough just getting out the door with my metrocard, wallet, phone, maybe some chapstick, a book if I’ve got things especially together.  And I don’t really need to be in that bubble.  The subway noises don’t generally bother me.  Every once in a while there will be a screaming baby, or a yelling, swearing mom, or a crazy person shouting about dogs and french fries, but it’s just part of the background noise of my day.  I tune it out.  I read.  I answer emails on my phone.  Whatever.  Even the most annoying people on the subway, the ones who try to convert us heathens between stops, are gone in sixty seconds.  Tune out, read.

But this guy today, he got on a minute after me, stood in the middle of the car, and preached at the top of his lungs.  After a couple stops I couldn’t tune him out anymore.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because he was breaking that unwritten rule: you don’t annoy me for longer than it takes to go under the East River, I won’t point out what an obnoxious, intrusive presence you are.  Or maybe it was just the volume.  He was LOUD.  And the car was otherwise completely silent, which just made him seem all that much louder.

And he stayed in my car.  Two stops.  Three.  Four.  This is getting ridiculous.  He’s not even taking a breath.  My brain is only capable of handling this kind of shit for 30 seconds at a time.  I’m going to explode.

No I’m not, I only have a couple stops to go.  If I can tune out my kids fighting, I can tune this guy out.

But I couldn’t.  And I yelled.  As far as I can remember, it went something like “Shut up!  Believe whatever you want to believe, but stop bothering the whole car!  This is ridiculous!  Go to another car.  Leave us alone!”

I’m not sure what I thought would happen next.  A movie moment, where the entire car starts clapping and cheering for me, would’ve been nice.  But no.  One woman near said “I’m with you.”  But that was it.

And through it all?  Through my yelling?  Through everyone looking at me as my face turned as red as my sweater?  He kept preaching.  Didn’t miss a beat.

I thought he hadn’t even heard me.  I’m guessing that if you’re going to spend your days yelling your beliefs at strangers you have to tune them out to a certain extent too.  But then, right before my stop, he said something like “And you think that if I shut up you will be left in peace.  But you won’t.”  That made me smile a little.  He had heard me.

And that was that.  I got off of the train and went about my day.  And he probably went about his, more determined than ever to reach people like me.

It’s not about religion (although that aspect of it probably contributed to my mood –  my regular readers know that God probably doesn’t even know who I am).  It’s about a bunch of people living and working in close quarters, all trying to go about their lives in different ways, following the unwritten rules that we’ve all developed together.  A person who will stand in the middle of a subway car shouting about God for ten or fifteen minutes at the top of his lungs is a person who has decided, for whatever reason, not to follow the civil rituals the rest of us have tacitly agreed upon.  He was playing by different rules, so I reacted in a way that I would normally find rude and wrong.

I’m not sorry I yelled.  I don’t think walking up to him and calmly asking him to please stop was called for.  I just wish I hadn’t waited a full ten minutes.  And I do wish a few more people had joined in.  I’m pretty sure nobody else in that car wanted to be shouted at for their entire commute, so I wonder why we all sat there taking it.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.



  1. says

    I’ve been there — right on that brink, right on that C train — but never had the nerve to go over the edge and actually yell. Good for you. Consider yourself a proxy for the rest of us who wish we had done it. (I still have rush hour home left to go, so it may be in me yet).
    Amen…and all that…

  2. Elissa says

    While I was reading this post, I was thinking: “Don’t.Do. It.” And then you did…you yelled. On the one hand, I was thinking about all the times I wanted to yell at the coo-coo for cocopuffs guy in the subway…and on the other hand, I always wondered what would happen if I did. And now I know!

  3. says

    This is exactly why I never take the C train.

    Good for you. I’d never do that because I’m always worried about being stabbed (that’s just my personality.) Yesterday on the 4 train I was next to a woman who was carrying on that we are different from apes because they get a banana when they are born and we get breast milk. Yes, Darwin, that’s the difference between us.

  4. says

    Amy – I’m hoping to take the #6 train ….bump into Bloomberg and scream at the top of my lungs “No Cathie Black! for NYC Chancellor.” Hmm…I feel better already.

  5. says

    @Ann: He always used to brag about taking the subway to work (surrounded by an entourage I’m sure). Do you think he still does that? Maybe you could start stalking his route…

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