Straphanger Joe Plods Through Dogs Days of Summer

Dog and a Pack

 

It’s the F train but I’m only traveling from 23rd Street to 42nd for lunchtime yoga. The train’s not too crowded but I’m standing anyway. When I’m not teaching I sit a lot at my job so when I’m on short trips on the subway, sometimes I just like to stand. A woman gets on behind me with a large German Shepherd on a leash. 

 

I didn’t know non-working dogs could travel the subway. I see them sometimes but rarely.

 

Checking the MTA website, here’s what Article 1050.9 h 1. & 2 says:

 

1. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) of this subdivision, no person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.

 

2. Paragraph (1) of this subdivision does not apply to working dogs for law enforcement agencies, to service animals, or to animals which are being trained as service animals and are accompanying persons with disabilities, or to animals which are being trained as service animals by a professional trainer. All service animals and animals being trained as service animals must be harnessed or leashed.

 

Okay. She should have been busted – that’s settled — but on with the tale.

 

The woman is wearing black cargo shorts, a brown baseball cap, a green tank top and has on a large, stuffed, army backpack. I can’t tell what’s in it but it’s big, it’s packed and it’s ready to burst. Her light skin is burned red at the shoulders and throat. She has red freckles on her cheeks.

 

She walks over to the two-seater and stares down at the seat, contemplating its availability. A man sitting on the other seat smiles up at her. I can’t tell if they make eye contact or not because my line of sight doesn’t give me an angle on her face. The guy does the ‘subway shuffle’, moving himself a little further into the corner of the seat, as if he’s taking up too much space – which he isn’t.

 

He’s a tall, thin, black-haired, iPod holding, white t-shirted, jeans-and-black-converse-sneakers twenty-something. His smile disappears and his eyes go wide as she seems to ignore him, turns around — presenting her back and backpack to him — and sits down.

 

Her backpack pushes way past the imaginary line that separates one kingdom from the other, invading his space and then conquering it. He is caught by surprise and can’t get out of the way quick enough. The backpack makes him turn sideways and pushes into his chest pressing him into the wall.

 

The woman leans forward to pat her dog on the head and the guy gets a breather but then she sits back and presses him into the wall again.

 

I smile. I can’t help myself.

 

The next time she leans forward, the guy squeezes out from behind her and switches to the empty seat across from him, shaking his head and adjusting his ear buds. The woman’s dog sprawls down between the ends of the four two-seaters taking up the whole passageway, panting. Nobody can get past the critter, even if they wanted.

 

I get off at the next stop. The dog lifts its head and his gaze follows me out of the car.

 

–Joe Lunievicz

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