Lately I’ve been homesick for the NYC subway. Maybe it’s the cold weather (In L.A.? Unheard of!) That nip in the air has unleashed in me some primal urge to crawl into a cave, or a mass transit tunnel, and ride out the long hard winter on the express train to springtime. I have yet to ride the Los Angeles subway, and I suppose I should give it a fair shot, but it seems disloyal– like suddenly rooting for the Dodgers instead of the Mets. And I doubt that the L.A. subway has as wide a range of socio-economic flavors packed into it’s relatively young cars. L.A. is a terribly car-ist city. It’s not the haves and the have-nots. It’s the drives and the drive-nots. I like that NYC forces Arianna Huffington to squeeze into a small space in between a ranting, schyzophrenic human urine-sponge and a right wing Wall Street exec. And being Arianna, well, she’d probably strike up a stimulating conversation with both of them. Being encased in those speedy metal boxes zooming inside the I.R.T’s nether-world of dark tunnels seems to suspend all the hierarchies of above-ground life. And strap-hanging can make a person braver than they would normally be. Someone standing too close? Pushing too hard? Staring too long? Well, don’t just take it like you would “up there.” Let ’em have it. After all, you’ve got a powder keg of disgruntled witnesses surrounding the jerk who will back you up, if for no other reason, because they’re pissed off at their boss and craving a quick outlet for letting off steam before punching the clock. And then, faster than the time it takes your oppressor to say,
“Eat my ______ ______ ______, lady!”
The doors glide open, and off you go, unscathed. The always unintelligible subway announcer seals the deal: “Please step aside to let people off the train before you enter. Thank you.”
And for the romantically challenged? Quick exit opportunities that come every 2 minutes can give rise to daring pick-up lines, and even MORE daring pick-up responses. Afraid to flirt? Then flirt on the subway. But do it right before you know you have to change trains at Grand Central, just in case.
I was on the receiving end of one such attempt on a visit back east not long ago. I was on my way to a tv show audition, on the downtown 6 train, and I was all dolled up– makeup, heels, spanx– the works. I’m working it, in my “42 and single” way.
But packed tightly inside my brain, like so many strangers on a train, are the nasty, hyper-critical, pre-audition thoughts one always has to fend off before dazzling a casting director on command…
“I’m not _____ enough, or _____ enough, and definitely not _____ enough;” followed by a few “i’m wayyyy too _____ for this;” with a couple of “I’m going to stop acting and start _____-ing” thrown in for good measure. But just then, an ego-boosting miracle occurs. Some cute young guy gets up from his identical orange plastic seat across from me, and stands right in front of me while I remain seated, so that… Well, let’s just say we are very purposefully looking at each other, eye to crotch. He tries to get my attention. I look up, and he says with his handsome Italian eyes,
“Excuse me, but you are so amazingly beautiful. I just, I just had to come over and tell you that.”
He wanted my attention. He’s got it. And now I’m thinking that not only am I gonna get this part, but they’re gonna change the script so it’s all about MY character. And my character will no longer be the quirky, non-threateningly attractive, wise-cracking sidekick, but the beautiful, witty and wise love interest instead. The rest of the gals on those OTHER trains headed to the same audition to steal this part that is so rightfully mine should just head back home. I’m a shoe-in. And my shoes are fierce.
“Thank you,” I say. He smiles. And then he says, “You’re just so breathtakingly gorgeous.”
Wow. Had he stopped there, I would’ve agreed to blow off my audition, hop off at the next stop and run to the nearest Holiday Inn Express with this 20-something Lothario. Or better yet, why bother leaving the subway? Visions of the super-hot sex scene in Risky Business fill my head. Yes! I will be his Rebecca DeMornay and he will drive this subway car (and me) with Tom Cruise-control. (Phil Collins screams in the background, with all that slap-back on his vocal: “I can feel it comin’ in the air tonight. Hold on. Hold on….”
But he didn’t stop there. He continued.
“I’ve always been into older women, but you take it to a whole new level.”
He said a bunch of stuff after that, but I can’t tell you exactly what. It was something like ’’Wonh wonh wonh wa wa wonh wonh…” The surprisingly crystal-clear announcer came to my rescue: “Forty-second street. Grand Central. Transfer available for the N, R, 4, 5, 7 and shuttle to Times Square. Please let all COUGARS off the train before entering. Let ’em off, folks. Let those old dried-up broads off the train.”