12/02/2005

JFK-Park/Downtown Xing-Harvard/Central-JFK

'Tis the season for the sniffles! I know this is also the season for giving, but if you've got 'em, the rest of us don't want 'em, so keep 'em to yourself, please! Seriously. People can be many, many things: good things like bus drivers, policemen, nurses and presidents, like mommies and daddies and big sisses and little bros, but they are also big, gory bags of disease just waiting to blow their deadly wads all over you on the T. Don't kill the messenger, though. Hate the sin, not the sinner.

It's hard, though, I'll admit. Because when people you don't know are really sick, all you see when you look at them is the potential to spread the sickness they have come to personify. And with the sickness, comes a whole host of inconveniences they represent. So when they enter the car and stumble toward us, it's hard not to glare at them hatefully, but what we're really glaring at is their micro-organisms, right?

Today I saw two commuters who demonstrated why you should ALWAYS, ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER TAKING THE T and before doing anything else with them. And also why you should probably wear a surgical mask and latex gloves while traveling on public transit, even though I know you won't because you'd look like Michael Jackson and people would stare. A huge, hermetically sealed bubble would actually be your best bet, but a little impractical getting on and off the train.

It is, of course, impossible not to touch things when you're out and about. The train lurches--in fits and starts--and you have to hold onto something, but just remember, those stainless steel poles are slathered in disease-spreading goo. There was one kid who, as we approached his stop, and he was getting up, sneezed into his hand--and this is acceptable, though it's preferable to sneeze into your sleeve, because--he then, and I mean in the very next moment, grabbed the pole next to the door to steady himself as the train slowed in its approach to the platform. Another moment, and he was gone, but his slime remained behind, waiting to hitch a ride on YOU and ME.

By far the worst today was a man around my age who stumbled down the car, forsaking other available seats for the one next to me. He sat down and actually spat on the floor (but like you do when you have a seed stuck in your teeth, or something--it wasn't a loogy), and then he sneezed, and then turned to me with a pathetic look and let out a pathetic and totally unecessary little cough. He was holding a wet, wadded-up snot rag, but was not covering his mouth with it. He was so ripe with disease it was dripping off him. You could almost see the triumphant micro-organisms swarming all around him. And there was only a single seat between him and me--between THEM and me.

Well, he didn't have the sense or the courtesy to keep to himself, off in some dark corner, and I was not about to sit there out of politeness, and risk being contaminated by his cooties, but he was Indian, or Bangladeshi, maybe--but very clearly from the subcontinent--and I didn't want people thinking I had moved because of that, of all things. Germs are equal opportunity. So is my misanthropy. There were three free seats in a row across from us and down a ways--far enough, it seemed, to be safe from his micro-organisms, but I couldn't very well switch seats like that, so at the next stop I leapt up and ran to the next car. I had to stand the rest of the way, but at least I wasn't in the cootie zone.

So wash your filthy mitts people! It's for your own good! And remember, when you wash 'em, do it good and thorough-like. Sing "Happy Birthday" (to whomever) all the way through twice, and that should be enough scrubbing, so long as it's with warm, soapy water. You could also sing "God Save the Queen," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," or the first verse and the chorus of "Love is a Battlefield," too.

* * *

I took a little trip to The People's Republic of Cambridge today, as you can see from this post's title. The T car I was on, the flourescent lights were strobing out on us. So much so that I thought I was going to go all epileptic, but finally I didn't. I rarely go to Cambridge nowadays, but since I am on the red line, it's easier to meet my neurotic Cambridgean tricks--erm, I mean, "friends" than when I was on the orange line.

My first ever trip to Cambridge was twelve years ago, but it seems a lifetime. I decided I would start smoking a pipe in Cambridge, twelve years ago. I mean, there was Leavitt & Pierce right there, beckoning. That's the sort of place you think of when you think of Cambridge. Or at least used to be. Nowadays, when you think of Harvard Square it's all A&F and BoA, Banana Republic and baby Gap. But I don't have a problem with it, really. It's still a kind of fairyland. An elaborate set piece.

People do whatever they have to in Cambridge to shine, to show the world who's who and what's what. It's like Nietzsche once said: great learning and great folly go together under the same hat. That should be Cambridge's motto:

WELCOME TO CAMBRIDGE
WHERE GREAT LEARNING AND GREAT FOLLY
GO TOGETHER UNDER THE SAME HAT

But I suppose Cambridgeans have earned their pretentions. Their neuroses, in which they take great pride. Their eccentricities, which, were they poor and wretched and living in, say, Dorchester, would garner them the more prosaic label of "fool". Because, really, an eccentric is nothing but a garden variety fool with a trust fund.

MEEE-OOOWWW!

What's got into me? There are plenty of things about Cambridge I adore. There's "FRIENDLY EATING PLACE" on Mass Ave & Dana St, where I had my first taste of friendly Cambridgean fare all those years ago. I also like all those "squares" between Harvard Square (which is more of a triangle) and Central Square, which is, like, a trapezoid. But these so-called little "squares" are quaint, in a silly, slightly frivilous, oh-so Cambridgean way, since they don't actually exist. At least not in this dimension. Where, except in the fanciful Cambridgean imagination, is Bunny Smith Square? An intersection is not a square, people. It's an intersection. Except in Cambridge, where 2+2=5 and circles (and intersections) are squares. Wny? Because it's Cambridge, and they can.

But there's a lot to like about Cambridge. Really.

I thought I was going to get an opportunity to rage against the T big time after I'd finished with my trick--erm, "friend," and was on my way home, via Central Trapezoid. There were delays in both directions. "We are moving, but moving with delays," the woman on the PA said. I love it. It's kind of like Bunny Smith Square. Maybe it's the same dimension in which Bunny Smith Square exists that we were "moving," because it sure as hell wasn't in this one. It was rush hour, and the platform was packed, which made it seem like a long time to wait, but in the end it was only ten minutes. The whole trip took 29 minutes, but when you're packed in like that, it sure seems a lot longer.

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