walking around sometimes
I see a tension under the surface
people are just about ready to explode
--Iggy Pop “main street eyes”
A few Fridays ago I was riding home on the train trying to read a Rachel Kushner novel when a dude got on at Capitol Hill. He chucked a wad of paper towards me which came to rest just below my bike. There was a lot of loud talking and gesturing. At first I thought: whatever, another crazy person. But the loud talking and overly fake exaggerated laughter guffaws continued and I looked up and realized it was the quintessential brogrammer. He got up and paced back and forth and switched seats several times during the trip all the while cracking jokes to his virtual phone friend. Commenting on the state of public transportation and various stupid brogrammer shit as well as a string of snide comments about Seattle in the context of wherever the fuck he came from. It was as if a series of variables fell into place and created a perfect storm in my mind:
- bro stayed on the train until Othello
- bro kept moving around talking LOUDLY
- it was a new train with lots of room and clear lines of sight so he never disappeared from view or out of earshot
- it was my Friday and I had a couple beers on the way to the train
- 18 months of pandemic frustration gurgled below the surface
- 30 years of Seattle gentrification flashed before my eyes
- bro embodied everything that’s going wrong with Seattle including a skyrocketing cost of living, pronounced income disparity and a huge influx of entitled brogrammer attitude
As the train approached Columbia City I picked up the wad of paper he chucked when he got on. It was a Whole Foods breakfast receipt, matching his brogrammer lifestyle. (let me remind you how much it takes for me to actually open my mouth and speak to someone) As he moved around again to stand by the door next to me I said, “hey bro, you dropped this” and sort of surprised him. Then he said “no, I’m good” and I said “No bro, it’s all you. Remember your breakfast this morning. Maybe you can tell your friend on the phone about it” then he mumbled some shit and got off the train.
When I tried to tell my old lady about it later I couldn’t really explain why it got to me so much. Two weeks later I recounted the story to friends and I got angry and red faced all over again, as if the guy was barking on the barstool next to me. Now a month later I’m still trying to figure it out.
I ride the train every day. Both ways. I’ve seen some shit. Heard some things. Smelled some smells. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring things and tuning out with thicker skin, so to speak. Maintaining the illusion of personal space on public transportation is essential. But that bro broke through my delusion. If he chucked down a dental pick I would have shit my pants.
Of all the variables that fell into place that day, I believe 18+ months of pandemic rollercoaster yo-yo frustration bubbling beneath the surface played the biggest part. Stand by until further notice lock down shut down keep out stay in stay put 50 gallons of hand sanitizer social distance dancing mean muggin mask face sourpuss aftertaste essential worker working vaccination attestation frustration mask up scrub down with two disinfectant wipes mandating mandatory mandate burnout.
Just trying to keep it together.