The Best Use of a Book on the Subway

Ladies and Gentlemen of America, what is up with this heat wave?

I don’t know. I really don’t. But here’s another question for you- one that you can probably answer: What is the hottest place you’ve been in the last few days? The beach, perhaps? Or your car, after it sat in the sun for several hours and before you rolled down your windows? Or maybe your kitchen- you should have thought twice about making twice baked potatoes.

Do you have your answer?

Ok. Now picture yourself in that heat. Now picture yourself trapped in that heat underground. No beach breeze or highway gusts here. The air is as still, trapped, bloated as you are. Add to this hellish fantasy hundreds of commuters- sweaty, pushy, and intensely irritable.

Everyone looks prone to pass out or throw up, or punch someone else in the face for breathing too aggressively. (Though perhaps the breath of other travelers could be thought of as breeze? One’s internal temperature is, most likely, cooler than the outside air.) The six minute wait for the train seems an impossible task- you may find yourself close to tears, but you can blame the mood swings on the dehydration.

And then it comes to you- this stupid book you’re unable to read because your brain doesn’t function in this humidity, this burdensome book that is partly to blame for the shoulder-strap sweat stains on your new t-shirt, this heavy book you’ve been lugging around all day has an actual practical use.

Why, it’s a fan!

Wave it in your face. It feels remarkably good, doesn’t it?

All the other commuters will be getting jealous, but don’t even consider letting a wisp of that wind float away from your face. The children will be fine- their sweat is a good sign, you think. It’s cooling them down. And that rather large man, looking like his heart might give out at any moment? Well, what good would this little, insignificant book do anyhow? No. You safeguard that book. Just like in Fahrenheit 451 or The Handmaid’s Tale, that book is your link to salvation and sanity.

You fan and you fan and you fan, and then- miracle! A breeze, a real breeze, comes shooting down the tunnel and, behind it comes the air conditioned train.

You jockey for position and, when the doors whiz open, you shove yourself into the car and claim a seat with all aggression of a starved mama polar bear. The doors slide closed, and New York City breathes a sigh of relief. You breathe with it, and the cool air returns you (at least partially) to your senses. Your brain clicks back into gear and you realize you should really get up and give your seat to those sweaty, sweaty kids.

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One Response to The Best Use of a Book on the Subway

  1. Judy says:

    Oh Syd – how we can relate … especially with such distinctive description!

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