The easy way to deal with cowards: call them out
On weekends and late evenings, it's a given that Metro-North trains are filled with obnoxious children or rowdy teenagers. My commute to work isn't too noisy half the time, but the other half is a cross between "Attack of the Crones" or "Poseurs on a Train." It's hard to decide which type is more annoying, the twats who yak incessantly, or the wannabes to try to act like bigshots. The former make you feel like your IQ is continually dropping from hearing their inane conversations, often involving two of three women babbling on simultaneously, often at each other (and how the hell can two people keep talking meaningfully at the same time for minutes at a time?), or otherwise to the quiet third (who is silent only because she's waiting for her turn to jump in). The latter are just insulting, particularly the idiots who think they're impressing everyone around by acting like big deal-makers or insiders.
The best description I've ever heard of the wannabe businessmen is "the Willy Loman type." (Check out that blog, a great compendium of stories to give you a further idea of what Metro-North is like.) Willy Loman was the "Death of a Salesman" protagonist who thought of himself as greater than the loser he was. The Willy Lomans talk nonsense about, for example, how they heard Hank Greenberg is trying to take back AIG -- the day before the feds announced their takeover. Other claptrap like, "I'm going to write a letter to the board of directors." Then the other night, two wannabe stockbrokers said at different points in their conversation, "The market's dropping on this," and "I got him [a client?] in for 200K."
Most of the time, these schmucks are talking about non-existent things, that is to say, they're lying in an effort to puff themselves up. If they were talking about true things, then this recent conversation is inappropriate and unethical: they're revealing information that should be strictly reserved for clients, and revealing confidential information about clients. Most of the time, I don't believe these "clients" exist at all, that the Willy Loman in question is only pretending to talk to someone -- a real-life version of the urban legend of the "businessman" trying to impress others with toy cell phones.
Above all, I am a gentleman, perhaps not as fast to help others as I should, but I do have my moments that I hope encourage others to do the same. This does not mean I tolerate disrespectful, discourteous behavior, however. Friday evening, a certain putz sat kitty-corner from me, some endomorph dago around 40, I'd say. The only other time I recall seeing him was two weeks before: I had the day off and was returning on an earlier train from the city, after lunch with a friend, and Signore Greaseball had also sat across from me, yakking for most of the ride. That day, I was engrossed enough in Chaucer to ignore him. This time, as soon as we pulled out of Grand Central, he again started making calls. At the end of the week, I was tired and just wanted my customary nap, and I was glad he stopped quickly. However, after we passed White Plains, he evidently got bored again and called his friends.
I finally pulled out my earbuds and said politely, "Would you mind keeping it down a little? You're a little loud." He ignored me and went on for a more few minutes, then hung up and said to me, "Whaddyasay?" His accent and lack of diction said blue-collar all the way, not to mention his use of idiotic cliches like "It is what it is."
Again, I very politely said, "Well, you're a little loud, you know, so if you could kindly keep it down. There are others around." Most people are or at least can be ultimately courteous, I think, and if they don't realize they're disturbing others, they're later horrified and grateful when you point it out. Not this guy, who quickly revealed himself as the asswipe he's likely always been: "I'm trying to talk some business here."
Business? My shirt alone was worth more than his entire K-Mart wardrobe of a faded T-shirt, grubby jeans, a dilapidated sports backpack suitable for a child, and heavy callouses on his elbow that indicate many hours spent on them. What kind of "business" could such a self-important slob possibly be discussing in front of everyone? I'm not talking about someone who should be proud to do good work with his hands. I'm talking about poseurs like this who imply fortunes on the line, and look more like they should be asking if they're needed on the construction site tomorrow. Like the others I've encountered, his pretentious conversation reeked of utter bullshit.
I calmly said, mostly reiterating myself, "Look, you don't have to be so loud. You're not impressing anyone."
He had the stupidity to say, "I'm not impressing anybody!" I love verbal sparring matches with my intellectual inferiors, and it's just too easy when they set themselves up like that. "Yeah," I replied with the same cool, "you got that right."
No doubt realizing he'd just been served, he tried to muster all his indignation and said, "Do I look like I give a shit?"
I'm been known to use vulgarities when called for, but this situation was not, and it was also an opportunity for me to take him down a peg. "That language is uncalled-for. There are women present."
The jerk said, "I'm addressing you."
"Nonetheless," I said, keeping my same demeanor, "the women present can all hear you."
He repeated, "I'm addressing you." Having established he has no civility or even a desire for it, I made a perfectly valid observation of the boorish Neanderthal: "You make your mother cry, don't you." He got very defensive and said, "Don't bring my mother into this!" That particular phrasing shows that I hit the mark.
As he clearly had no intention of shutting up, I put my earbuds back in and switched to harder rock. He said something, so I pulled the earbuds back out. Whatever he said, I didn't notice -- I was noticing his thumb and index fingers, which were suddenly and lightly encircling my wrist. Lightly, mind you, because if he had exerted any pressure, he'd be spitting out teeth after two seconds.
I flicked my wrist to get his hand off, and said with a steely glare, "That's assault."
"What, you're a lawyer?"
"No, but that's still assault. We can have the police meet us at the next station, if you want."
I don't know if he realized the severity, or my seriousness. That "simple assault" was merely a misdemeanor, but I have plenty of vacation days left. For his kind, one would be well worth using to see him lose a day of work and cough up a couple hundred dollars for a fine. It would be even more severe if this alpha male-wannabe was on parole for anything.
Realizing he was being completely owned, he said something about "showing me" or whatever. I smirked: "You would need a small army." I'm not going to worry about some middle-aged guinea, especially one only two inches taller (I laughed when he got up to disembark), and who I sized up as 30 pounds lighter, and that's 30 pounds less with a great deal of pudge. And I'm certainly not going to worry about this Guido, who from his pseudo-bravado showed a 100% chance that he's just another tough-talking coward.
So he asked me where I was getting off. I told him, then asked him back. He said my stop, so I rephrased: "At which stop would you otherwise be getting off?" I didn't remember his stop from before, but I knew it was before mine.
His stop is the one just before mine. He said, "I can afford to live there." And what does that prove? I could "afford" to live in his town, but choose not to. Actually, even wetbacks can "afford" to live in his town, if he'd bother to notice the changing demographics. Second, I live close to my train stop (negating the need to drive and park) and on a peaceful private cul-de-sac. Third, the median value of my particular neighborhood, comparing houses of comparable size and extensions, is far more than the median value of any neighborhood in his town. Again, what does his idiotic braggadocio prove, besides that he can only spew idiotic braggadocio?
He said something again to imply he'll beat me up, blah blah. I told him that I'd be delighted for him to try, putting my earbuds back and smirking at him. He said something about he'll get me when I least expect it. I've heard that threat before, and let me put it this way. If he wants to try anything serious, I'll have him hanging upside down and drained like halal meat for the next train's passengers to discover.
Now, who's surprised at this: he got off at his stop after all! I called his bluff. The most the coward could do was to try to turn things into a staring contest, and even so he could still only tuck tail and run in the end.
Then of all the things, because I wasn't psychic enough to get off with him, he snarled at me, "You're a sellout. You're a sellout." Where did I betray him, myself or anyone else? Well, as the movie line goes, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
We know what he was incapable of articulating properly, but he nevertheless never implied any such invitation. All he ever said or implied was the direct statement that he was going to follow me. Now, his manner of departure is quite telling in itself. He had hurriedly grabbed his things and headed for the door only once the train came to a dead stop. Regular passengers go to the door as the train approaches their stop, because the doors at rush hour don't stay open for very long. Thus his was a blatant attempt to hide that he was nothing more than talk, so that he could escape quickly without having to stand at the door, having to endure the rest of us at that end of car silently laughing at his yellow streak.
I wouldn't have bothered disembarking at his stop, anyway. As I said, I had sized him up already as a coward. Why bother standing in the parking lot for 10 minutes listening to him bluster and do nothing to back up his words?
My penultimate act was specifically to dispose of any bystanders' doubt that I was the gentleman, and that he was the outclassed greaseball. I extended my hand for him to shake, saying, "Take care, and have a good weekend." He said not a word and didn't accept my hand, only turning his back to me too quickly to see my broad smile. Like the scripture says: resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Or did I say "See you later"? After this altercation, I doubt I will. Poseurs tend to rotate train cars, looking for new strangers to impress with their nonsense, because they're afraid of being remembered by regular commuters. It will be a long time before this one shows his face. We can just imagine what he complained about when he went home to mama that night: "Some kid on the train didn't like me talking to my imaginary friend!"
Oh, and look at what the boor left behind. Those aren't just 12-ounce cans.
Again, I doubt that there was even anyone on the other end, or at least anyone who'd want to "talk business" with a buzzed-up wannabe.
My final, parting shot: "Go have a few more of those."
This all goes to show what gun control has done to us. An armed society does indeed create a polite society. There's no way this jackass would have bothered anyone with his cell phone, let alone reacted the way he did, let alone put his hand on my wrist, if he had known someone could blow a hole in him. Or that if he did try to start a fistfight on a train platform or in a parking lot, any little old lady passing by could send him to the undertaker.