Get ready to go
(You're [[not ready]].)
(either:"Where are you [[going]]?","Where have you [[been]]?")
To a [[date]], [[a date]], a very [[important date]].
If <em>that's</em> what you're calling the office these days.
But whatever. You're [[going down]].
It's an appointment with your Brazilian waxer.
A man from Rio, with dozens of candles.
You're [[going down]], back hair.
And by "important date," yes, that is code for-
Look, here's the elevator!
<em>...going down anyone?</em>
Packed way above its [[maximum capacity]] and weight.
You [[hop in]] anyway.
You go down, down, down
into the bowels of the city.
Creaky escalator. Dim lighting.
You and your [[fellow travelers]], like burrowing animals returning to the earth.
Ahead of you, [[a stroller]].
Behind you, a jackass [[on his phone]].
To your [[left]]...
Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.
No, just CVS.
No lawn, no chicks.
Just middle-aged urban reality, heading back home with the groceries, baby [[going down]] for a nap.
It was a place of dreams.
Plentiful snacks. Unsupervised WiFi. Not an adult in the house.
If that interview went well, you're [[going down]] as the luckiest intern in history.
<em>Yeah, you want to know, I know you want to know
But what if I don't want to tell you?
Okay, I'll tell [[you]].
<em>Shit's [[going down]], man. Shit's getting real. </em>
The hell, [[fellow travelers]]!
That thing's supposed to be in the elevator.
Didn't you see "The Untouchables"?
(you know, the film with the baby and the steps and Kevin Costner)
It didn't end well.
Sharing every last detail of his day trade with his [[fellow travelers]].
Standing on the left? [[Seriously]]?
(either:"You shoot her the [[side-eye]].","You loudly rearrange the phlegm in your throat ([[SUBTLE HINT]]).")
And finally, she [[starts walking]].
She doesn't move an inch, only mutters "Bless you."
You're not giving up now. You're doubling down, in fact.
Now she visibly cringes. Mucus! Icky!
Finally, she [[starts walking]].
Just as you reach the bottom.
You saw that Lifetime movie about the Chilean miners.
You know when the odds in a confined space don't look good.
Onto the escalator for you, [[going down]].
Before you, a sea of humanity.
The [[card refill]] machines.
Also, a busker with [[a goat]].
From your wallet you [[whip out]]
You need to refill your card...
but who can resist a [[goat]]?
<em>public hygiene codes be damned</em>
The elevator (transition: "shudder")[jams].
The emergency alarm is broken.
No one comes to your rescue.
<em>I'm [[not ready]] to die,</em> you tell yourself.
Time to do this day over.
You'd rather leave the subway system and go to:
(link:"A vice-ridden motel in South Dakota")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/the-open-road")]
You're [[ready]] - bring it on.
You bend down to pet it.
Okay, not so adorable after all.
You hear the chime of the next train.
You stand up and make a bolt for the [[turnstiles]].
The gate slams shut on your nether regions as you try to go through.
You decide to [[take a pass on]] this day.
(either:"Your [[Starbucks]] card","Your [[debit]] card")
You dig and dig and dig in your wallet.
You know your debit card is in there somewhere.
Every second you search is a second wasted.
And that's a (either:"very [[bad]] thing","very [[good]] thing") indeed.
A swipe up top, a swipe down below and you're fully loaded
<em>in terms of subway money, that is</em>
You're off through the turnstile and [[ready for the train]].
It's not [[in your wallet]].
Because right at that moment, you hear [[screams]] coming from the tunnel.
You smell [[smoke]].
You turn around and bolt [[right back up]] those escalators.
The media later referred to the incident as an "arcing issue" but Twitter disagrees:
This was a full-on fire.
Semantics aside, you were happy to have missed it.
You were [[not really ready]] to die that day - not in a subway station, not digging for your debit card.
The dimly lit platform.
The random whiff of urine.
Four out of five heads buried in a smartphone. Even though there's no WiFi down here.
All waiting, waiting for the train.
It's in [[your jacket]] from last night.
<em>(either:"I'm afraid we're going to have to [[ask you to leave]] the station.","[[Allow me]] to assist you.")</em>
People ride this subway every day without pants.
Reeking of gin.
And you get [[kicked off]] because of <em>this</em>?
A well-dressed stranger swoops in.
With a flash of a bespoke sleeve and a swipe of an Amex Black Card, your subway card is recharged... for life possibly.
You don't know [[what to say]].
You'd rather leave the subway system and go to:
(link:"A vice-ridden Minneapolis bodega")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/the-corner-store/")]
(link:"A record store in Omaha")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/crowdsurf-omaha/")]
Fuck it, you're ready to try again, [[ready for the train]].
(either:"[[Spacious and empty]], just the way you like it.","[[Crowded]] as hell.")
But he's a man of the law.
You have no choice but to obey.
You turn around and skulk back to the escalators.
You're [[not ready]] for this day.
Like an emperor, you survey your terrain.
You pick your seat.
You [[spread out]].
Like seriously, people are shoved up against the windows like bugs under a magnifying glass...
Waiting to ignite.
The doors open. The train disgorges its crowds.
(either:"You [[take a pass]] on this one.","You [[take your chances]] and elbow your way on.")
You close your eyes...
Only to wake to the (either:"[[sound]] of","[[touch]] of")
<em>He lives with Chet and Grayson and clerks downtown?
He was on my kickball team, you remember from the party?</em>
One voice, then another, [[fills the car]], vocally fried and rich with uptalk.
Someone's slid in right next to you.
This person (either:"[[spreads his legs]]","[[starts talking]].")
Between a parent and a stroller and a slight high school student, you see your opportunity.
Elbows cocked, fists raised, you show no mercy.
You throw more cross-checks than Paul Newman in "Slapshot."
The door closes behind you.
There's no [[turning back.]]
(either:"You're not ready for such a [[test on your patience]].","You whip out [[your phone]].")
Mentally, you leave the subway system to immerse yourself in:
(link:"A tale of love, fortune and bad decisions")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/the-lift-bridge")]
(link:"A Spanish bullfight")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/beast-mode")]
You [[pay attention]] to your surroundings instead.
"Just remember to pay it forward."
Sure, sure, whatever you say, you reply, stunned.
This kind of thing just doesn't happen to folks like you.
In any case, there you are, [[ready for the train]].
Ahead of you, a fully loaded backpack.
Behind you, a teacher balancing a box of cupcakes.
Lower down, uncomfortably near your anus, an umbrella handle.
It's [[not raining]] today.
<em>One thousand one...
One thousand two...</em>
The train stops and then the unbelievable happens...
(either:"[[Even more people]] swarm in.","Someone [[offers you a seat]].")
You brace yourself for the onslaught.
Flesh against flesh. An unholy melange of shampoos, body lotions and colognes.
<em>This too shall pass. This too shall pass.</em>
Then the truly [[unthinkable]] happens...
You're neither old nor pregnant, nor disabled.
But hell, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. And as the song goes,
<em>If you see a chance, [[take it]].</em>
To those around you, you shrug apologetically.
But inwardly, you're all (transition: "pulse")[SQUEEE!]
You're seated and comfy.
<em>Was it your good looks?
Was it the care you took with the day's outfit?</em>
[[In any case]]...
<em>We were with the assistant to the assistant of the deputy undersecretary, like POWER PLAYERS!</em>
Your [[blood chills]].
It's a gaggle of interns!
They spread out to occupy the center of the car.
The train [[lurches]].
At first you think it's temporary, a twitch.
But he just keeps [[spreading]]...
You [[shut your eyes]].
(either:"[[The scent]] slowly spreads through the subway car.","[[The scent]] smacks you in the face like a slap.")
"A little crowded this morning, [[isn't it]]?"
This luck was not [[meant to last]].
The train lurches.
Your seatmate lurches with it, smack into you.
Firmly but carefully - so you can pretend it was an accident - you nudge him back to his side.
He slams [[against you]] again.
<em>Damn, this dude is heavy!</em>
And fast asleep.
You whip out your phone. You think nothing more of it for the next several stops.
The guy's still sleeping.
[[Must be tired]], you think.
You nod, smile.
She's a tourist. A sweet lady from a small town. She doesn't know any better.
And then you swiftly return [[to facing forward]].
Like an NHL goalie or Cirque du Soleil performer.
Finally, you feel compelled to [[take action]].
(either:"<em>[[Wow]], your balls must be huge!</em>","You hoist up your briefcase and [[shove]] his thigh back to his side of the seat")
Did you just say that, in your outside voice?
Throughout the car, heads swivel in your direction.
The man beside you glowers, turns toward you in a [[look of disbelief]].
Looks like you did.
It was a small move, a subtle move, but [[nevertheless]]...
You've got important stuff to attend to.
Like Candy Crush.
But Tourist Lady doesn't get the hint.
"We're in town for the RV and camper festival. Have you [[heard of it]]?"
Not making [[a sound]]...
"Why yes, my testicles <em>are</em> unusually large, thank you [[for noticing]]."
<em>Oh course I've heard of it, everybody's heard of it, I don't live under a rock.</em>
But you smile again politely and the tourist continues.
"I'm so excited. I've heard [[it's wonderful]]."
And she just keeps on going.
<em>Cleveland Park - oh look at all of the people getting out at Cleveland Park. And then it's Woodley Park - do you think that's a park, too? - and the zoo.</em>
You shove your earbuds into your ears.
<em>And then Dupont Circle and then Farragut - was that named after an actual person? I wonder. I know Dupont is the name of a family...</em>
You queue up your loudest post-punk thrash metal music and [[crank up the volume]].
<em>For the love of all that's holy, please stop talking to me, you overly cheerful [[troglodyte]] from flyover country!"<em>"
"I'm [[getting out]] here."
<em>The zoo stop! That's Woodley Park, right? Bingo - I got it! Getting good at this subway thing I am. What a beautiful day for..."
The tourist's voice fades behind you as you exit the train.
Did you just actually say that out loud?
Looks like you did because now this nice tourist lady from the Midwest is crying.
And the crowds around you are staring.
<em>What an asshole! Can you believe it?</em>
And the security guard agrees.
"I'm going to have to [[ask you to leave]]."
"I'm sorry," you reply.
And oh hell yeah - you'll totally [[be getting out]] at the next stop.
Always a good thing to do in a public place.
Especially today, because soon after you board the next train, you feel a [[touch]]...
Enough excitement for today.
You leave the subway system to:
(link:"See what happens when a second chance goes wrong")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/east-to-west-west-to-east/")]
(link:"View a video of baby goats in pajamas")[(gotoURL:"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxUt9UM0nc")]
Hell no, a few bad experiences won't keep you from [[where you're going.]]
"Would you like to see them [[without pants]]?"
You watch for the next train.
A plastic badge on a lanyard [[slaps you]] on the face.
"(either:"I'll be [[getting out]] here.","Pardon me, [[precious snowflake]].")"
All heads turn.
"Yes, you," you continue.
"What's your problem?" [[the ringleader]] asks.
<em>Ohmigod, is he even breathing?</em>
Slowly, carefully, you [[look down]] at his rib cage.
You [[stare]] again.
"Seriously?" you [[challenge]] them.
Because the lanyard is right there, studded with metal clips and sharp-edged laminate. Swinging perilously above the crowd.
"Don't you know who I am?" one intern puffs out his chest.
"Don't you know [[who I work for]]?" another asserts.
"All I know is that your badge [[whacked me in the face]]."
"And I'm not afraid to lawyer up."
You don't have a lawyer, [[nevertheless]]...
The subway car is silent, waiting for your response.
And you give it.
"I don't know who you are or [[where you work]]."
The crowd cheers.
[[You grin]] in satisfaction.
Your work here is done.
You leave the subway system to:
(link:"Read an interactive tale of retribution")[(gotoURL:"https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/p8mv")]
(link:"View capybaras in their natural habitat")[(gotoURL:"http://www.golfdigest.com/story/capybaras-wildlife-become-stars-of-the-olympic-golf-course")]
Hell no, you're [[going back for more.]]
You're [[ready for the train]].
It's a fart.
In a confined space.
There's only one [[way to react]]:
<em>(either:"I'll [[be getting out]] at the next stop.","I'll be [[calling it]] like it is.")</em>
<em>"Really? My fucking eyes are watering! Who farted? We're on a subway - who the hell **does** this?</em>
Yes, you just said that out loud.
The entirety of the car turns to you.
You expect the worst - and indeed, a few faces are understandably appalled.
You sit placidly for the [[remainder of your journey]].
You've survived your subway adventure.
Get [[ready for the train]] again.
(transition: "shudder")[HE LIVES!]
You want to shout to all around you,
thrilled that you hadn't been sharing your commute with a dead body.
Dear Christ, he's dead.
You are sitting on the subway with [[a dead man.]]
Slowly, you [[rise from your seat]].
You exit the car [[at the next stop]].
And [[you]] try this trip again, a little older and a little wiser this time.
Now the tourist woman's face is right in front of yours.
<em>Have you ever been to [[RV and camper festival]]?</em>
"(either:"[[No!]] No, I have not!","[[Excuse me]], I'm getting out at the next stop.")"
Enough of this! You're leaving the subway system to immerse yourself in:
(link:"The story of a new home")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/the-farm/")]
No, you will not be defeated.
You return to the station. You watch for the next train. It arrives.
You peer into the opening doors. [[Spacious and empty]]
FML! - as the kids say.
Enough of this train business for the day. You'd rather leave the subway system to immerse yourself in:
(link:"An interactive tale of love and adventure")[(gotoURL:"http://www.philome.la/JHartshorne14/go-west---people-and-places/play")]
Or, rather, YOLO! Or FOMO. In any case, you turn around, wait for the next train and hop on.
Your luck has turned. Someone [[offers you a seat]]
Forget it! You're leaving the subway system for:
(link:"The French Alps")[(gotoURL:"http://www.ofpeopleandplaces.com/save-the-rich")]
No, you go back.
You wait for the next train.