Strangers on a Shuttle

There are some people who frequent the subway shuttle between Grand Central and Time Square in New York City and I see them on my way home from work almost every day. Most of them are on the first or last car, as the shuttle only has two destinations, people tend to go to the one on the farthest end to make the dash to catch the next connection that much quicker.

Here are a few that I see the most…

The Veteran

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, my name is Razel…

I hope I got his name right. This is a man who claims to be a Vietnam veteran helping the homeless. Razel adds that he was in the same situation not too long ago and intends to give back to the community.

Razel who is 6′-6’2″, black, slim and sports a goatee, carries sandwiches, soap and toothpaste for the homeless and requests donations to keep the supply for them.

As a parting note, he routinely adds “a smile won’t cost anything”, probably referring to the frumpy look from most people since this is New York after all.

Carleen Williams

I’ve seen her a lot of days recently after, perhaps, a brief hiatus lasting a month or so. Or it may be that she was on a different car or may have been taking a break at the time.

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw her, but it may have been at least as far back as last Spring. She claims to be a widow raising two children and in desperate need of financial assistance. The introduction is virtually identical every time I’ve seen her and it consists of her name and dilemma.

Carleen (or is it spelled Karleen?) is around 5′-5’2″, white, medium build and rather neatly dressed. She also used offer her resume to anyone as well, although nowadays she seems to have stopped this altogether.

She says “God bless you” a rather lot and I don’t believe the fervor for the divine was this intense when I first saw her. “Please have a heart” is another common exclamation and I recall one day a man wryly replying “sorry, I lost mine on 9/11” although I don’t believe she heard this.

This post isn’t by any means an attempt to put a negative light on someone who may legitimately need assistance, and I don’t know if she’s really in dire straights or just a creative hustler. But considering there may be children involved I’m curious if anyone knows Carleen and what exactly happened to her family.

The Jesus singer

There’s another man aboard the shuttle I see often, a busker, who plays one string on a six string guitar (rather poorly at that) and whose repertoire consists of “Jesus is blessing me right now…”.

He’s around 5’10”, -5’11”, black, medium build and rather soft-spoken. The man has no elaborate story and often wears a baseball cap in which he also collects money.

He seems to be genuinely aware that his performance isn’t spectacular and the song may be more for self-comfort than anything. Unlike the others, he doesn’t give a name and has no introduction; he just starts playing as the shuttle starts moving.

Although it seems I’ve learned to almost completely tune out these people into the background noise, I think there are times where I’m sufficiently distracted from my own life to just be fascinated enough to absorb the soliloquies once again.


My underwear is 15 years old

I consider that to be quite an accomplishment. And, socks about 10 years old. Hey if they still fit…

Obviously not all of my underwear is that old, but it makes me really wonder how much of what we buy really gets used to the fullest. Is the word “timeless” just a marketing scam? Because few things that still work or function well still appear to be acceptable these days.

Do I really need to raid Old Navy to be socially acceptable?

I’m one of those people who still keep t-shirts from the mid 90’s; when the music wasn’t terrible, but the cars sure were. I look scruffy, I wear cheap hats or caps and my favorite hoodie has stains and a hole.

Why do I have to get this or have to get that? Why can’t I just be comfortable in my own skin? Or am I just getting old and cranky? Which brings me to my new peeve about work…

Welcome to NYC where nobody gives a $#@%!

People like to take their sweet time on the train, when they think you’re a bum. Dagnamit, I’m not a bum! I just look like one. But if someone is wearing an expensive suit with a coat and carry a briefcase, they get to get up and move to the door even before the train stops.

So my attire isn’t, shall we say, very sophisticated compared to most other people on the train. Granted, I have far fewer zeroes in my paycheck compared to others working South of 42nd street, but I guess I could improve in my appearance a bit.

Although, I wonder what makes them think my time isn’t as important as theirs. For all they know, I could be working to cure the credit crunch.

Yeah, you’re right… that’s a stretch.