It’s that all-encompassing sticky kind of hot.
I’m waiting for a transfer on the subway platform of 42nd Street, Time Square. Everyone, including myself, has a sweaty sheen about them and the stagnant air only further advances possible heat exhaustion.
It’s 1am, so I can’t fathom how the temperature is this suffocating. The sun has been down for hours and still I sway side-to-side, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. There’s no escaping this oppressive air, and if I sit for even a second I’m positive I’ll pass out.
I’m also 100% sure we train goers are about to lose our minds. Nearly 14 minutes has passed, but still nothing barrels into the station with the promise of a seat and air conditioning.
The 19 or 20-year-old dude next to me looks down at the tracks as though he might jump. This concerns me for a second, but then I realize what’s caught this young man’s attention. He’s staring at the rats, thumping his foot to an imagined beat. Suddenly he begins rapping, with his eyes still locked on the vermin. I look over at him in annoyance.
“It’s hooo–ot in here, but I just drink my beer. And yooo rats don’t care cuz you don’t need no air. But you know; It’s hooo-ot in here…”
You get the point. This phrase continues to be repeated, over and over again.
After three minutes, I put my purse down and take my rings off of my fingers. Next I throw back my arm, and punch him in the face. He stops his ongoing, mindless ode to the rats and silence is restored.
VICTORY IS MINE.
No, that didn’t happen. It might have… but just then, we began to hear the blessed rumble of the train.
People on the platform stretch out their necks, leaning over the subway tracks, in hopes of catching that heavenly beam of line signifying the arrival of on-coming transportation. But the rumble gets louder and louder and yet, still we remain in the heated darkness.
The express train arrived on the opposite side of the platform. It’s only in service for two more stops, therefore, this faux transportation will not whisk me away to Queens. I want to punch the Rat Rapper out of sheer anger, even though he too sits in sweaty disappointment.
Next thing I know, a mini gay pride parade is waltzing down the platform. Yes, that’s right – a line of happy, rainbow-painted faces and short shorts is assembling. Believe me when I say I’m not stereotyping in the slightest, but only describing the scene that unfolded. [Note: A much less tired Britney remembered later that it was also Pride Week.]
Now if you don’t recall: I’m so sweaty by this point, someone could easily slide me halfway down the platform, and I’d be able to knock out that freaking Rat Rapper like a bowling pin. In basic terms, I look rough and totally defeated.
Then two men start to walk over toward me. I’m staring right at them, giving them the "warning-I-might-bite" eyes. And yet another two follow, until four equally sweaty gents surround me.
What happens next… well, it only happens in New York.
The men begin to jump up and down. “Smmmmile!” one of them says. “Smile girl, smile!” another chimes in. Then all four began to chant “smile, smile, smile” in a surprisingly deep, football-like tone. They look and sound so ridiculous; I can’t help but break into a grin, which inevitably rolls into flat out laughter. The man on my left begins to throw little bits of paper in the air, like a subway version of confetti, announcing our victory over the blistering summer heat.
Within a few moments the subway arrives and the parade waltzes on.
Yet, I still couldn’t stop laughing the entire way home.
Thank God humanity knows how to save itself with a smile.
Ode to Summer Subways:
Astoria, 30th Ave
Grand Central, 42nd Street
Harlem, City College