Thursday, November 5, 2009


Ital is vital, but "take time to open!"

Some commutes are so ridiculous you'd die laughing if you weren't on the verge of dying proper. It would all be so casual if the work that feeds you didn't depend on punctuality. Good thing my new night job doesn't have "Arbeit Macht Frei" hanging over the timeclock, or you might see me round the proverbial soup kitchen again.

I had to go to a Jamaican restaurant for honest food after a starving day doing my own work. Only the real "(down)home cooking" would do, the type of feast that my ancestors ate so they wouldn't have to dally around the table -- probably a section of floor -- and get beaten for "laziness." Damn tasty, filling, cheap and often vegetarian by the exigencies of economy and history. (Notwithstanding the salvage exemplified by the likes of oxtail and pigs' feet.) Ital is vital.

I had to negotiate something I could reheat later with a typically curt Jamaican counterperson. The wait was customarily long, so I had to dash once the food was packed. While eating a bammy (cassava fritter), carrying a folding scooter and food in a bag (I've never seen a Caribbean dinner that travels well, though the snacks are portable), I tried to get my subway pass out at the station.

In all this fumbling I dropped the bag of dinner with a roots drink (above) in it on the subway station tiles. Roots drinks are notoriously carbonated and have to be bottled in thick glass because they are literally explosive from internal pressure, fermented to 5% alcohol in the bottle (big deal, it's 5 fl. oz.). This brand has to be depressurized for 15 minutes (crack cap, wait, close, repeat) before opening, or promptly upended in a vessel three times its volume. The bottle popped violently and shot foam all over everything – out of the plastic bag, all over my dinner's paper bag, floor, everything except me, praises.

Some IDIOT was yelling that I dropped something. No fucking duh! Everyone stared because it had sounded like a floodlight full of sarin. No time for malarkey, I could hear the train I needed to catch beyond the turnstiles. (It only occurred to me later that I could have had a de Menezes moment there, shot seven times in the head because we live in a >9/11 world.)

I carried the dripping dinner bag, scooter and half-eaten fritter to the platform where I just missed the train. Finished the bammy in time for the next train, then hurried to take the dinner in paper bag wrapped in dripping plastic out, sticking my hand into a lagoon of glass shards marinating in roots drink. Started bleeding. Caught train but barely with everyone staring, and had to throw out the sticky plastic bag that had taken the worst frag assault. Tried to clean off my left hand, flicking glass and blood specks everywhere.

So now I won't be able to steer the scooter very well, have no bag to carry dinner in and the bottom of the inner paper bag is sopping and studded with glass. I have to put it on the scooter to carry it, it's so hazardous and gross. I consider throwing it all out, but we’ve been through so much already.

Get to city, run out because I have 5 mins to make a 10 minute trip on a scooter in the dark with a bleeding hand. And the bag is still a problem, let alone bloody-hand driving. Dunkin' Donuts is hosting a symposium of two customers not discussing anything transactional with the counterperson. I ask a Sikh selling papers in a kiosk if he has a shopping bag, he says a small one, fumbles for a while and comes up with one big enough for a Snapple and a pack of cigarettes. I'd already thought that worst come to worst, I'd go to Pret a Manger because they're usually nicer than any other chain gangers.

They kindly and quickly obliged me with a bag, perhaps guessing the disaster since I was carrying a cactus of sodden brown paper and glass slivers on my scooter like a palanquin, plus I looked like my mom was on fire. I bagged my Jamaican tragedy, belted the bag to my side where it would swing around and threaten my balance while scootering at high speed, and jammed to the office. To save time, I rode against traffic in low light and nearly got hit by bikes twice.

Got to work and clocked in four minutes late.