Subway Story: An Ex-Con with a Heart of Gold

Every New Yorker has a handful of Subway Stories, funny/bizarre/gross/touching sights they have witnessed on the MTA.

Like the time I took the subway in January wearing no pants! Click for the full story.

This is a Subway Story of my friend Sage:

I was riding along the uptown 1 train and this young kid got on blasting music from his cellphone.  It was annoying everyone.  He had a crazed look in his eye and what happened soon after the doors closed confirmed what I had thought: He was looking for a fight.

An old man he sat down next to him politely asked, “Could you please that down?” To which this kid, he couldn’t have been more than 18, exploded. “Who the @#$@ do you think you messing with? Huh? HUH? I DON’T CARE. I WILL GO BACK TO PRISON! I DON’T CARE! TRY ME AGAIN OLD MAN! TRY ME!”  It was clear just by looking at him that he had, in fact, never been to prison.  Or probably ever been arrested.

The old man got up out of his seat and walked away.  Then the kid started staring at me.  Now I probably should not have done this, but I asked him what he was looking at (it was clearly me) and he started to go off again.

This was very crowded subway car.  Space cleared around him and me.  It looked like a fight was about to go down.  I stayed calm and talked to him in a relaxed, non-abrasive tone.  Asking him to sit down, and calmly explaining that he was frightening other people.

I didn’t budge from my seat.  He kept yelling his angry little head off at me.

Eventually he sat back down, steaming.  A few stops later a guy from the other end of the car came and sat next to me.  He gave me a nod and then started at the kid.  After a few more stops he went over and sat next to the kid.

“Excuse me,” he said very politely, “Can I ask you a question?”

Now you have to understand, this guy looked tough.  He was tall and had tattoos all over his neck and arms.  The kid looked at him.

“Sure.” Said the kid in a I-don’t-care tone.

“I heard what you were saying before.  About prison.”  He paused “Now, I’ve been to prison.  It’s not a nice place.  Why would you want to go there?”

I was shocked.  I had never seen anything like this in NYC before.

“Oh,” said the kid, “These people messing with me.  They think they can-“

“You’re not hearing me” said the guy with the tattoos, ever calmer then before. “Prison is not a nice place.  You don’t want to go there.”

I thought it was weird.  And lovely.  Kindness like that.

The kid got off a stop later.  I don’t know if the guy with the tattoos “reached” him or not, but I know he reached out.

I introduced myself to the guy with the tattoos later.  I thanked him for his kindness.  He told me that he had made some mistakes and was thankful that he was able to get out of prison.  And that he was now, just trying to keep it real and play it forward.

I haven’t seen that man since, but where ever you are sir, cheers.  You are one heck of a guy.

Thanks for such great contributes to New York Cliché! Check out his web series Copying Life!

Have a Subway Story of your own? I want to hear it!

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

3 thoughts on “Subway Story: An Ex-Con with a Heart of Gold

  1. I’ve never fully understood people like that angry guy on the subway. I think it’s because they want attention. I once saw a woman start screaming at a man just because he offered her his seat on the train. She got mad because he tapped her arm to get her attention, but he was just trying to be nice and she looked like the jerk.

  2. That’s an amazing story. I mean it doesn’t seem like much, the first part of it sounds pretty scary…but I know here, not a lot of people are willing to stand up for what the believe is right and try and take on a situation like that. But that guy sounds like he was really trying to assist everyone, including the kid.

    A fair few people on the trains in my city are the type that go looking for fights…and they are quite vocal, annoying, acting crazy etc. But I don’t think many people would have the courage to stand up and say/do anything.

  3. That’s cool! You know how women say babysitting is the best birth control? The best way to avoid prison is to watch the old HBO prison life drama Oz in a marathon session; it is so disturbing and PTSD inducing! Particularly the “white collar” character who lands there for drunk driving vehicular manslaughter and winds up sodomized/going bat shit crazy/biting a guy’s dick off who makes him suck it. Prison looks like the scariest place imaginable. Oz is the best cautionary tale ever, more so than any Health Ed video!

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