So I recently realized exactly why I am not nice to people on the train. Aside for the fact that I like having the whole seat to myself when riding the Long Island Railroad in New York and I usually get stuck sitting with someone strange, I also have been trying to keep my record clean of homicide. Well, the other night I had an encounter that reminded me exactly why I shouldn’t consider changing my ways.
I took the 10:15PM train from Penn Station to Long Island. Of course, it was packed, so I ended up sitting in a 3-seater row squished in between a quiet teenage girl and 300 pound crazy man. Because I had just been at an event, I was given a goody bag, which consisted of various pamphlets, photos, knick knacks, pens, and a slice of Imperial Torte, a fine Austrian desert which a closely guarded recipe.
As I rummaged through my goody bag perusing my swag, I could feel the fat man’s eyes burning into the side of my head. Then he began speaking. “What’s that?” “What does that pamphlet say?” “Is that a pen?” “Where did you get all this stuff?” “Can I see that box?” and so on. He continued pestering me with questions until I reached in and pulled out a thick square slice of Imperial Torte. This is when he fell silent, but somehow, his gaze shifted from that of a curious onlooker to that of someone who has just witnessed a miracle.
“When are you going to eat that?” he asked.
Since I had just sipped on some desert wine and I knew that having the chocolate then would pair perfectly, I couldn’t resist opening it right away. “Ummmm, probably now.”
“Oh, what kind of cake is it?” he asked. “Where did you get it? I love chocolate.”
His “subtle” cues were well-read, and, deciding that I would take this opportunity to not be a bitch on the train, I offered him some of my desert.
“Would you like half?” I asked.
“YES! Well, if you don’t mind.”
I broke off half of my cake and plopped it into his outstretched palm.
He went to place it into his mouth and then paused. “What are the ingredients in this?”
Now, I had told him that it was a foreign desert that I had gotten as a gift from an event. It was in a small white box with a simple logo sticker on it. I didn’t know what was in it. I took a bite.
“I’d say peanut butter,” I replied.
The man grabbed my hand and slapped the cake back into it.
His face became frantic as his hands began to shake. “I’m allergic to peanuts!”
“Oh, ummmmm… I don’t …ummmm,” I stammered, confused as to what I should do. Was this really my fault? I was just an innocent bystander. I didn’t have any napkins, but I had a notebook, and I ripped out some sheets of paper.
“You can wipe your hands on this,” I offered.
He took the paper, and wiped his hands. They continued to shake, and he continued to stare at them as if they were going to fall off.
“I hope this isn’t fatal,” he said in a low voice.
Suddenly, I came up with a genius solution. “Why don’t you go wash your hands in the bathroom?”
WIth that, he grabbed his things and dashed to the bathroom. He never came back, though I saw him get off at the Hicksville stop. At least I knew he was alive and could run. However, I couldn’t help but wonder a) why anyone would take food from a stranger on the train in New York and b) why someone who is allergic to nuts would take an unidentified piece of cake (which I’ve heard often have nuts) from a stranger.
I will continue to be a bitch on the train.