February was a long, travel filled, slightly angst ridden month for me. One particular late winter day had been longer than most – a wake before dawn to catch a flight back to DC, work all day and finally take a breath round 8pm kinda long day. Boarding the Metro train early evening, I was disappointed in not getting a seat for my four stop ride. At least the train wasn’t sardine crowded, I thought. My hand was one of the three deliberately anonymous hands wrapped around a pole for stability.
At the second station a bespectacled brunette boarded at the same end of the train. As we moved from stop to speed, this woman widened her stance in an effort to balance against the sometimes herky-jerky train movements. The woman to my left shifted slightly to make even more room for the new woman to enter our little circle and reach the pole. She gave a friendly smile as she did. The solo stander held firm in her outsider position even if she was wobbly on her feet.
As we left the third station, the woman to my right leaned forward and said “You don’t have to Metro Surf; there’s room here for you.”
“Excuse me” the train surfer said… as she wobbled a bit more.
“You don’t need to stand on your own, there’s plenty of space here.”
The train surfer suddenly uncapped a rant about disease, and how she’d rather risk falling than “touch that germy thing especially this year with all of the different strains of influenza.” The mini diatribe lasted about a minute.
Maybe it was the patently ridiculous notion that we are somehow more fragile than our forbearers, or the general hilarity of someone so insanely germaphobic that she seems like an SNL character, or maybe it was the selfishness in her willingness to risk the safety of the other people on the train as she was far more likely to fall into someone else than she was to catch anything that hand washing couldn’t prevent, but for whatever reason this inflamed my sensibilities.
I went against my usual find–away–to–confront–discomfort tendencies but my response wasn’t calculated… just the instinctual reaction of a fatigue addled brain. As the train stopped, I gave her a good look, removed my hand from the pole and made a big showy lick of my palm.
As I exited the train, I glanced at my pole mates. They could barely contain their laughter…
…and then I went to buy some Listerine for a quick gargle*.
* no need to tell me that the mouthwash wasn’t going to do much, and no, I didn’t get sick.
By the by, I received an email update from Afraid of Unrequited. She took some of my advice, some of LiLu’s advice, and stepped in a couple of the traps about which we both warned her. Full details coming soon.