This afternoon I made my way into Manhattan to run certain monthly errands and stop off at my favorite comic book shop, and my route requires me to take the Times Square/42nd Street shuttle train over the East Side. As I awaited the arrival of the shuttle, I took my usual position near where the conductor's booth would be when the train pulled up to the platform, a spot I favor because it allows me swift entrance onto the car. When the shuttle arrived, I stepped aside and allowed the passengers to begin spilling out to make their way above ground to any of the numerous tourist traps found in Times Square. Near the front of the press of human cattle was a family of very obvious tourists, a gaggle of five corn-fed Midwestern-looking types that included a large and harried dad, an exhausted-looking mom, and three kids ranging in age from approximately ten years old down to the smallest, an adorable little girl of perhaps four.
With dad taking point, the family was clearly out of their element in the SOYLENT GREEN-like crowd, a state of affairs worsened by dad having to navigate several large items of wheeled luggage by himself as mom attempted to corral her two older children. The excited four-year-old took no heed of her parents and attempted to monkey-scramble over the luggage dad was pulling as he said to no one in particular, "Watch where you're going." It was at that exact moment that the little girl, not noticing the gap between the train and the platform that is warned about over the loud speaker without fail in each direction of the shuttle's two stops, slipped feet-first through the gap and landed right on the tracks below the train. I was standing perhaps three feet away from this as it happened and it occurred too quickly for me to grab her as she fell.
As the terrified child began keening like some creature out of Celtic legend, I stuck my head into the conductor's booth and yelled "DON'T MOVE THE TRAIN! THERE'S A KID UNDER THE CAR!!!" As I turned around, the girl's dad dove headfirst after her, landing on his chest at the edge of the platform and having arms that were thankfully long enough to reach her. As he grabbed her, he yanked the poor little thing up with considerable force, unintentionally knocking her forehead against the train car, which sent the back of her skull ricocheting back against the concrete of the platform. Now in grievous pain on top of being scared out of her wits, the rescued waif bawled for all she was worth as her parents did their best to comfort her. I cannot imagine how the poor wee thing must have felt. In an unfamiliar territory, surrounded by throngs of weird-looking New Yorkers, unexpectedly plummeted into some dark rat-infested abyss beneath a massive vehicle of steel, yanked upward and conked cranially against hard objects... A Disney World vacation memory it most definitely was not.
The conductor announced that the shuttle would be out of service while representatives of the MTA investigated the situation, so I got off the train and told the conductor I would stick around if they needed an eye-witness to answer any questions. Things seemed okay as the parents checked the tyke over for possible cuts or broken bones, but at worst she was just more shaken-up than a four-year-old should ever have to be. The parents, for their trouble got a polite lecture from the conductor on how the kid could not possibly have been any luckier with how the incident turned out. You see, if she had landed in a slightly different position or had been down there long enough to panic and move, there was a very good chance that she would come into physical contact with the train's third rail — aka its electrical power source — and then ZAP!!! That's all she wrote. The parents listened to all of this with color-draining looks of horror written all over their faces, quite obviously allowing the "could have been" awfulness to sink in. Just as this was going on, a petite Hispanic policewoman arrived and whipped out a pad so she could take any statements if necessary.
In a sane world, that's where this story of memorable vacation disaster would have ended. But, as this is good ol' New York City, such was not to be.
As the cop was taking notes on what happened, a rail-thin Hispanic man of about 6' 4" appeared as if from nowhere and began wildly gesticulating as he shouted, "YO! THERE WAS ALLA DIS BLOOD AN' SHIT AN' PEOPLES WUZ SCREAMIN' AN' SHIT SO I WAS LIKE YO! I'MA HELP DIS LITTLE GURL!" KNOW WAH I'M SAYIN'???" I know a thing or two about folks who are out of their fucking minds on dangerous drugs, so it was clear to me, and presumably all within earshot, that this man was majorly wrecked on god knows what all. By the look of him, I would say either a serious dose of crack or else some of that oh-so-yummy crystal meth. As this loon ranted and raved in what was a combination of drug-fueled freak-out and an effort to call attention to himself and be perceived as a big man when he had in fact done fuck all, the policewoman tried to herd the tweaker away from the already-stressed tourist family but as she attempted to do that, another Hispanic dude, this one being around thirty years old and wearing a suit and tie, began hurling a litany of abuse at the drug-fiend. "YOU'RE A FUCKIN' PUSSY, YOU MUTHAFUKKA! YOU AIN'T DONE SHIT! WHERE I COME FROM, ONLY A MUTHAFUKKIN' PUSSY TRIES TO BE A MUTHAFUKKIN' TOUGH GUY, YOU FUCKIN' MUTHAFUKKIN' PUSSY! DAT'S RIGHT, I'M CALLIN' YOU A FUCKIN' PUSSY, YOU FUCKIN' PUSSY! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT??? YOU PUSSY!!!"
The suit-and-tie-wearing asshole was not only worked up to the point of his face turning red with veins bulging on his forehead as bullets of spittle sprayed from his lips, he was clearly having the time of his life tormenting the tweaker while there was a cop there to hold said tweaker at bay. This behavior only served to wind up the tweaker, who eruditely fired back with a confusing string of epithets and threats peppered with assorted usages of "pussy" and "muthafukka," accented with chest-thrust-out "Come at me, bro" physical posturing. The petite cop was clearly not appreciating any of this from either side of the torrent (it could scarcely be called an argument) and as she vainly tried to keep the tweaker in line, she also repeatedly ordered the dude in the suit to shut the fuck up, telling him that he was not helping and was in fact making the situation even worse. Upon hearing that, the tweaker became more physically aggressive and nearly knocked over the cop, while the guy in the suit incessantly mocked and tormented the tweaker in a performance not far removed from that of a bored delinquent who keeps throwing lit firecrackers into the lion's cage at the zoo, secure in the knowledge that the incredibly pissed-off lion cannot become intangible and stroll right through the bars to feast on him, starting with the offender's asshole.
Now stop and consider all of this for a moment. New York City cops are not renowned for their patience or compassion, especially not when shit like this goes down. The typical NYPD officer comes equipped with a potent variety of weaponry of varying levels of fuck-you-up-ness, including weapons-grade pepper spray, collapsible steel truncheons, tasers, and of course, fully-loaded pistols and a decent amount of ammunition. Most likely, all you've got is your dick in your hand, and I can tell you with considerable certainty that your dick is trumped several times over by any of the aforementioned bits of ordnance. In short, if you fuck around with the wrong cop on the wrong day, YOU LOSE. Neither of the previously-described jackwagons had anything going for them other than their dicks and towering levels of unbridled assholism — well, there was the drug-fueled rage thing — so one would think things might have chilled out a bit when the cop, with a flick of her wrist, whipped her collapsible steel truncheon into extended combat mode.
This here is what we're talking about.
Guess again, bunkie.
The deployment of what is in the right hands an impact weapon of shattering efficacy did absolutely nothing to douse the fire of two men roiling in testosterone and primate dominance displays, so unless she she shot both of them right there on the spot, the cop would require some backup, which she called for on her radio. (It should be noted that while all of this was escalating, the tourist family, now forgotten by all and sundry, wisely took the opportunity to get the fuck out of there, likely taking with them a new-found terror of the Big Apple that they will recount to friends and relatives back in Smallville for decades to come.)
The overwhelmed cop had to wait for maybe thirty seconds — MAYBE — before a literal dozen uniformed male NYPD officers ran to her aid. It was like someone opened a magical chute and cops just slid in from out of everywhere. Seriously, it was amazing.
So do you think the presence of twelve more cops, each bearing the aforementioned arsenal of kill-a-motherfucker-ness upon his person, had any effect on our little two-man act? The answer to that question was a resounding "no" as the two ragers at first paid no attention at all to the police. Since he wasn't on drugs, the guy in the suit eventually twigged to the idea that it would be prudent to clear off when there were a dozen armed cops present who could kill him on the spot and most likely get away with it (after which they'd make a few extra bucks selling his corpse to the White Castle over near Port Authority), so he moved about twenty feet away and paced back and forth, all the while yelling about what a pussy the tweaker was and more shit about "Where I come from..." For his part, the tweaker remained agitated and was led off by about six of NY's finest.
When the smoke finally cleared, the conductor announced the shuttle would once more be up and running, so I got onto the train and waited for it to bear me the one stop to my destination. Unfortunately, suit-and-tie asshole also got on and, spying some garishly-dressed hoochie of the Goya-eating persuasion, he sought to impress her with his self-aggrandizing account of his "bravery" in the face of a drugged-up goon who was being held in check by a tiny policewoman with a truncheon.
And that, dear Vaulties, is how the Spring 2013 NYC tourist season got underway for your favorite Bunche. Oh, joy.
Oh, and when I arrived at my favorite comics shop — the most excellent Jim Hanley's Universe, NYC's best comics purveyor — I regaled the staff (who I am honored to consider family) with this story and they were horrified and amazed by it, despite the fact that they are right across the street from the Empire State Building, a spot with no small amount of insane tourist drama.