@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Sometime around this time last year, I got on the subway late at night after a gig. Music blasting in my headphones. To be honest, I don’t know how anyone tolerated the subway pre-headphones. One time I thought a guy was going to stab me because I told him not to play his music on his phone out loud without headphones. He started yelling at me, “YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME BECAUSE YOU WENT TO COLLEGE? YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME BECAUSE YOU WERE A DOUBLE MAJOR IN SOME BULLSHIT AND GOT GOOD GRADES?” Though his assumptions were remarkably accurate, I did not think I was better than him because I did well in college: I was better than him because I don’t play my music on speaker for others to hear on the subway.
But this is not about that story. This is about someone else.
On whatever evening it was I got on the subway late at night, I sat across from a girl around my age, passed out, clearly fucked up: make-up smudged, torn tights, even some bloody scrapes on her knees. She was alone. She was a mess.
There weren’t many others in that subway car at this time. And besides her, I was the only female in that train car.
Great, I thought, just great. Now this girl is my responsibility.
See, I’m a good enough person that if a passed out drunk/drugged up girl is in need of help, I’ll help, but I’ll help begrudgingly with a dour attitude. I was already mad at this girl, like she was my teen-aged daughter, that I was going to have to be her temporary caretaker. Handling her would delay me going home to my soft bed. And that’s all I really wanted. Some peace and quiet and alone time in my bed.
I can’t stand white girls who can’t handle booze. I have to deal with them all the time in comedy clubs. And I hate to trash both my gender and my race, but white women take the lead as the most annoying audience members when they are drunk and entitled. Don’t believe me? Ask literally any other comic. I’m not saying this makes them bad people, I’m just saying they should be self aware enough to not drink in public and/or get on subways alone after a night of drinking. Look, my own sister is a sloppy drunk, and when we were younger I often refused to go to bars with her because I didn’t want to have to babysit my older sister. If I’m going out, I don’t want to be a guardian. I want to get drunk. Remember, I’m not that good of a person.
It’s not that I assumed that the guys on the train would take advantage of this young woman, who was rather pretty, it was more that I knew there was a 100% chance I wouldn’t take advantage of her, so I had to keep an eye on her.
I live off the last stop of the N/W, Astoria Ditmars Boulevard. I had to assume that she did not intend to take this subway to the last stop. Carefully, I watched the other guys on the subway car. They also were looking at the girl, but if they had predatory intentions, they were hiding it well. They seemed more concerned than creepy, and I consider myself a good judge of character. I didn’t think I would have to fight anyone. In fact, I was sure at least one of the guys would help me carry her out. Still, I wish I had my small knife on me that I sometimes carry around.
Annoyed, I thought about what my strategy should be. Should I summon an MTA cop or a regular cop and pawn her off? Should I shake her, try to get her in a cab? Should I try to find her phone and call someone? What if she’s unresponsive and doesn’t wake up? Or worse, what if she wakes up and throws up all over me? It even crossed my mind that worst case scenario I’d have to take her to my apartment and leave her on my floor to let her sleep whatever she was on off. There was no way I’d put her in my perfect tempurpedic bed: if she threw up or peed on my bed, I would have to kill her and dump her body in the East River (a joke, guys).
That would be a last resort. I’d try everything else before taking home a stray. Trust me on this, you wouldn’t really want to wake up with me in your face if you went on a bender and woke up to find I took care of you. Granted, I’d have a gatorade and an egg sandwich for you, but you’d get a long, long lecture. I can get real preachy in a “know-it-all-mom” sort of way. I’ve “mom’ed” a lot of my friends through the years. I know it’s annoying because they’ve told me it’s annoying.
When we finally reached the last stop, one of the guys on the train went to get an MTA cop. To be honest, I did nothing except step back to watch/eavesdrop. Two guys and the MTA cop were able to get her awake and talking (slurring but talking). She did have a working phone that didn’t have a cracked screen or was out of battery (much to my surprise) and called someone. She was helped into a cab, and that’s the last I saw of her. Again, I did nothing at all but watch from a few feet away. Not even sure what I would do if it seemed like mischief was about to ensue. For a tiny girl, I’m strong, but I’m still petite. Would I intervene? Call the cops? What was it exactly was I planning to do?
In retrospect, it’s clear to me that my plan was to do nothing. In fact, I was hoping to do nothing, to not get involved at all. So, really, my plan worked. She caused only a slight delay for me to get home to my ridiculously comfortable bed. And I did sleep better assuming that she probably did make it somewhere alright. There’s no way of knowing now or then, I suppose.
This is something I’ve tried to explain to many a persons who say how dangerous New York City is. I’m not a hero in this story, not even close. No one in this story in a hero. We’re just people. Yes, there are a lot of creeps and bad people. However, I think they are outnumbered. They are outnumbered by people like me: we don’t necessarily want to help you, but we definitely don’t want to hurt you, and if you’re in trouble, we’ll at least make sure you get somewhere safe. And then fuck you, you’re on your own and learn how to hold your liquor/dose your drugs better going forward (haha).
I have seen more acts of New Yorkers looking out for each other in dicey situations on subways than people being malicious. I’ve seen guys break up fights. Women coming to aid with mothers and their little children. Money given to subway dancers and polite beggars. Even when I spoke up to that obnoxious guy with his music playing, there were guys practically rolling their eyes at me, knowing that if that guy went to take a swing at me, they’d have to pull him off and beat him because I had to say something.
So, yeah, people are generally ignorant and bothersome, if you ask me. But they’re okay. The integrity of a true New Yorker is that we don’t want to help you, we want you to take care of yourself and not get in our way, but if shit happens, we’ll still have your back. If we see something, we’ll say something.