The Commuter Life: A Crow, a Hobo and a Cup of Joe

I should have known how this commute was going to unfold, at least in terms of the tone. Thinking back, it couldn't have gone any other way. I was doomed from the moment I left my apartment; some might even say from the moment I agreed to get a day job and become a commuter...

I began my Monday as any normal day -- tired. Too tired, in fact, with the hopes of one day discovering how to work from the ease of my own home and not have to trek over the Hudson every day. Sadly, I've yet to figure that out. So, I swallowed my pride, continued slaving away and headed to my lovely NJ Transit platform.

On this particular morning, I found myself visited by three ominous occurrences -- shitty occurrences, some might say -- with each acting as a symbol of what's to come. I won't lie, the visits made me feel as if I was in some sort of sickened, twisted Dickens novel. Yet these signs seemed even more bizarre than old Jacob Marley coming to visit. I would have preferred him ...I received no goose.

I paced down the steps of my platform -- early as usual -- with false optimism on my side until I nearly tripped over an object laid upon the floor just round the corner from the steps. With coffee and balance intact (in order of importance) I looked back to notice a crow on the platform floor...

...a dead crow on the platform floor...

Now, I'm not a superstitious man. Beyond my initial reaction of "Christ, I almost spilled my coffee!" and "Shit, there's a dead crow! How terrible," there was not much more. I swear, I have a good heart, but I quickly tossed out the thought of any superstition...just a rare sighting. However, my station holds two bends I need to pass in order to get to my train. And after corner two was bypassed, I wouldn't' say I started believing, but I knew something was in the air.

In the pantheon of crappy things to happen to someone, this sits near the top. Okay, below murder, pillaging, rape, blah, blah, blah...I get it.

If you've ever been coughed on by a homeless person you understand the panic it carries. And if you haven't surely you can imagine. It was then I understood what was in the air...filth, as I had been chosen to consume a whole heap of it. I rounded corner two, looking back at the horrific scene I had passed before, and came face-to-face with a cloud of odor and a cough of death. (Note: this is in no way a slight against homeless people. I feel for them, I do, but from a distance.)

The sound...painful.
The smell...inexplicable.
The experience...fuck.

My town holds very few homeless people. That's not a brag; it's merely a fact. My point is that the odds of me being coughed on by one of them is quite low. Yet, it happened, and I instantly began regretting each and every decision I had made. Getting up, showering, going to work -- these are examples of poor decisions.

When I finally was able to force my eyes open I was staring into the eye the cougher...a petite elderly woman who held the ferocious cough of a truck driver who smoked one too many packs in their day. Despite the abhorrent event, I received no apology, merely the roars of an incessant cough accompanied by a stare. No covering of the mouth. Nothing. Even as she walked away...

I was repulsed, but I needed to make my way to the train. I knew it wouldn't wait. "Hey, hold up! You don't understand, I was coughed on by a hobo!" I've spoken with NJ Transit operators; they don't give a shit who or what coughed on you. If the train is set to leave, it's leaving. Unless, of course, you really need it to leave, then they will sit for minutes on end.

So, there I was seated on the train among a group of commuters who had all seen what I'd been through; it was quite obvious considering I had a few rows to myself. Apparently, they had all tripped over the dead crow, yes, but none were fortunate enough to meet the horrid greeting of that little old, blackened lung. We thankfully hit our next stop, so fresh faces who knew nothing of my morning happenings piled on.

To say the guy who sat next to me was big is an understatement. I'm a few inches over six feet tall so if I'm cramped it's very uncomfortable. Having said that, this guy didn't take notice. Our entire venture to the city was spent with him making himself at home and me nudging against him to make him realize there was another person in the seat.

Luckily, redemption was coming...

Our train pulled into Penn. The odorous cough had either left my clothes or was overshadowed by the stout fellow's cheese breath; I don't really know. In making one final move for my bag on the ground, my coffee cup tipped, coming in full contact with my seatmate's shirt and pants. Was it on purpose? No. Could I have stopped it? We'll leave that unanswered...

And while I apologized (unlike the sickly wanderer), I couldn't help but think every one of the passengers from my stop saw it as a little triumph for me. To those who weren't, I guess I was merely an asshole. It didn't matter; I had turned my morning around. Perhaps the day was going to be okay...