SUBWAY SLEEPER The three train pulled out of the 42nd street station a little after half past two. It was Sunday morning, and the platform was filled with Saturday night revelers making their way back to Brooklyn. There was a man sprawled out on the train, sleeping with his mouth open. It always arrests me to see a person asleep with his mouth open. Few things seem quite as vulnerable. And this man looked quite dead. I asked another man who had been in the car when I entered, now leaning against the closed door, if he thought the sleeping man was all right.
“He’s fine,” the man said, “he was snoring a little while ago.”
In Brooklyn, at Nevins Street, several people emptied out of the car and a group of kids entered. They were of the variety of teenagers who disrupt everything in their presence with the offensive blare of their attitudes. The attraction of the sleeping man was too compelling for them to ignore. They drew closer to him, like hyenas to the dead. One of the teenagers threw a pencil at the man, aiming for his mouth. After receiving enthusiastic approval from his goons, he threw another. He was about to throw a third pencil when a conductor came out.
“What the hell is wrong with you?!” he yelled, “Can’t you see this guy’s sleeping?”
He was a small Hispanic man, and he stood trembling with anger.
“What if he was your father? Or your friend’s father? What is wrong with you? You watch so that someday maybe you are lying asleep in a train when somebody throws a pencil at you! Or a book! Or a rock! Somebody might beat you over the head with a bat! How would you like that?!”
At the next stop, the teenagers quickly got off the train.