On Halloween night, I got on the subway at 42nd Street.
I was headed south to Brooklyn. About 20 stops. I took out a big book. And put my eyes down. Which is where most eyes go on the train: down. On pages or screens or the floor. Down away from everyone else with their eyes down.
The train, I’ve learned, isn’t the place for eye contact. Or really any kind of contact with others. Most everyone does their own thing in their own world.
The subway car went quietly along like this through a few Midtown stations.
And then, somewhere under Chelsea, it happened. Undisputedly. Irreversibly. Lethally.
Someone passed gas. And we were all now inhaling this warm, sulfuric, stinky stench together.
“Oh. My. Gaaaaaaaaaaahd,” roared a man dressed as a Yankee ballplayer. Eyes were going up. Hands were covering noses.
“I know. Seriously?!” This from a man dressed in periwinkle blue scrubs. “SEAR-EEE-US-LEEEE?”
I looked up at a proper man with a finely trimmed mustache nearby me. “Whoever smelt it,” he bellowed cheerfully, “dealt it.” Someone across the aisle called out an amen.
Up and down the train car, large and noisy laughs boomed through the stinky air. Riders retreating to less flatulent areas traded war stories:
“It was SO bad over there.”
“You wouldn’t BELIEVE it at that end of the car.”
The gasser, though, remained anonymous. Unidentified among the merry mass of strangers coming into contact with strangers.
And that night, while most subway lines under Manhattan were filled with downcast eyes, one smelly train of people somewhere under Chelsea was having a gas of a time together.