There are three things any person, anywhere in the world, who uses the subway is deathly afraid of happening:
- The subway gets stuck underground while the mariachi band is inside your car.
- A crazy guy pulls a knife on you.
- You barf.
Most people will be lucky enough to never experience their public transportation worst nightmare. But not me. No, not me!
On Tuesday afternoon, thanks to a startling lack of common sense on my part, I went into the New York City subway system when I had food poisoning.I’ll spare you the details about everything that happened before I puked, but suffice it to say that with the waves of nausea washing over me, I should have stayed at my office near a toilet.
Alas, if I had, I wouldn’t be able to tell you five things that will happen when you barf inside a New York City subway car:
- It will occur to you that you’re hurtling underground in a cramped, airless train car with no way to get out.
Around four in the afternoon, I packed myself into a subway car with a bunch of high schoolers and business people and grabbed a pole, holding a bottle of red Gatorade in one hand. But moments after the 4 express train pulled away from Grand Central Station, I started thinking about how I was in a small, tightly packed space … and I needed fresh air … and there was no way to get out until the next stop. Even on the best of days, New York City subways smell like a foul potpourri of drunk-people pee, dead rats, and garbage. And even on the best of days, I’m a claustrophobic, panic-attack-y hyperventilator. Remarkably, none of these things bothered me while I stood on the platform in the throes of nausea, but they occurred to me when the doors closed. In the span of, like, three seconds, I retched and then barfed all over the subway floor.
- Everyone in a five-foot radius will shriek “Eww!” and the area will clear out. Fast.
I don’t exactly know what I expected to happen. But, trust me, throwing up in front of strangers is mortifying enough without everyone vacating the immediate area like, well, you’ve pulled a knife.
- You will start to sob because everyone is staring at you.
Also, because you got barf in your shoes. And your purse.
- No one will say a thing for about 10 looong seconds. Finally, a tiny little black woman with a thick accent will come to your aid.
God, people really clam up when you vomit in public at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. Those few seconds of nobody saying anything was one of the most awkward moments of my life. What, did they think I was a junkie or something? For God’s sake, I was carrying a purse from J.Crew! Anyway, I took a seat because, gee, there was plenty of space to sit now. Finally, some guy asked, “Are you sick?” Yes. Yes, sir, I am most definitely sick. Thank you for noticing! A tiny, working-class-looking black woman pulled napkins out of her purse and handed them to me. I said thank you and she asked what was wrong. I said I had food poisoning. When the subway finally stopped at Union Square, this woman — a complete stranger — took me solidly by the arm and walked me out of the car, up the stairs and out of the subway station.
- The NYPD does not give a shizz that you just lost your lunch on the subway.
My Good Samaritan walked me out of Union Square and lo and behold, there was a cop car parked on the side of the road with an officer sitting in it. She knocked on the window and he rolled it down. “I have a sick person,” she said. The cop asked if I needed an ambulance. “I don’t think so,” I said. “Can I just sit in your car? I just feel really nauseous.” The cop turned his head away from me. “You can sit over there,” he said, pointing at the steps on the south side of Union Square Park. Are you kidding me? I was crying and covered in Gatorade-colored vomit. What else do you people need from me to get some help?! Screw you, a**hole. As we walked away, my Good Samaritan clucked her tongue about how our tax money pays that man’s paycheck. I did not disagree with her. So, no thanks to the New York City Police Department, I sat on the steps until my boyfriend came to fetch me. But before he showed up, my Good Samaritan used her napkins to wipe the throw-up off my legs and shoes. This woman was an absolute angel! NYPD: not helpful. Boo! Boo! Hiss! Random, kind stranger: amazing.
I wish that had been the end of my food poisoning woes, but it was not. The other person who gets the gold star is my roommate, Will, who kindly mopped up the bathroom floor on Tuesday night after I yakked on it, twice, in rapid succession. Somebody is totally off the hook on dishwashing-duty for, like, the next year.
I am happy to report I’ve made a 100 percent recovery, thanks to a steady intake yesterday of Saltine crackers and “Millionaire Matchmaker” reruns.
Now, I just need to prepare myself for getting trapped underground with that mariachi band.