The weather has officially warmed up now that May is here, and I truly believe we won’t see any more snow here on the East Coast for a while. That’s great news after the winter we’ve endured, but it does mean that a certifiable menace and a genuine disruption to the peace of our fair city has once again reared its ugly head. If you’re a New York resident, what do you dread any more than sitting placidly in your seat on the train heading home from work (or standing, if you couldn’t get a seat), and hearing the refrain of “What time is it? It’s showtime, showtime, folks!” Yes, showtime, the call to action that means that lean, shirtless, usually heavily tattooed black kids are about to start blasting music from their oversize radios, extolling the crowd to “Watch him, watch him!” and begin flipping and writhing and b0uncing off the walls and ceiling of the moving subway car, with little or no regard to whomever might have the misfortune to be sitting near. I’ve written about the problem before here on the site, but it’s easy to forget about it during the winter, when the dancers disappear. Yeah, you’re cold and miserable, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting your eardrums blasted and getting kicked by an errant dance move. And then, of course, they’re asking you for money, and then calling you a hater and trying to guilt you when you won’t contribute.
Needless to say, I’ve never contributed. Why would I? I like to sit on the train and read. It’s nice to have a few quiet moments after working for ten hours. Hell, I’m working fifty-six this coming week. Should I really clap and give money to these hooligans who are disrupting my ride home? Yes, I know I sound like a crotchety old man, but for me, this is a real quality of life issue. It’s said that under Police Commissioner Bratton, cops are cracking down on dancer arrests. But they’re like weeds. Get rid of one, two more spring up to take their place. When they’re on the train close to me, I try not to make eye contact. Not because I’m intimidated by them, but rather because I’ve begun to feel so strongly about the injustice of what they’re doing, I’d really rather not get drawn into a verbal or physical conflict. I’ve actually considered going over and hitting the call button to speak to the train conductor at those moments when “showtime” is about to start, to tell the authorities what’s happening in my car. After all, what they’re doing is illegal. Mostly I don’t do it because I just want to get home as quickly as possible, and I know the hassle that would come about if I took such drastic action. But I’m tempted every time. Maybe if these guys happen to catch me on the wrong day, I might actually do it. Which would almost certainly bring about a confrontation, the notion of which is a little scary, because you never know if these guys are armed or not, and they usually travel in packs. It’s not that I’m completely unappreciative of the dancing, but why must they do it on the moving trains and not on the subway platforms? I’ve asked them this very question, though the answer if pretty obvious: they do it because on the trains, we’re a captive audience. And that’s exactly what strikes me as unfair about it. We’re being victimized. And I hate that. Especially when you factor in all the good stuff about this city, I don’t like the idea that these people are ruining part of my experience here. It might seem like a small thing, but when it’s happening almost every day in the late spring into the summer, it’s easy to start dwelling on it. If I ever do have to have it out with these guys, I’ll post on the site again and tell the story. But for now, I guess I just have to continue living in dread of the word “showtime.” I would have no problem if it was stricken from the English language.