Peter Lynn: Agent Provocateur


You don’t have to drive to get something like road rage. Tempers generally run high during commuting. Many times, for various reasons usually involving other people’s self-centered habits and/or poor commuting acumen, I’ve nearly been the cause of a fight on the subway. There ought to be more potential for violence on public transit, because not only are you close enough to smell the other guy’s stink, but you’re also close enough to do something about it by bathing him in his own blood. However, of all the times when I’ve nearly let slip the dogs of war on the subway, I’ve usually at least been one of the potential combatants. Not today.

This morning, I got caught on the stairs to the subway behind an old lady, a young guy, and his dog, who were creeping along side-by-side and at old-lady speed, forming a rolling barrier. I got pretty annoyed, but didn’t say anything. However, the guy must have picked on my vibe, because when he got to the bottom of the stairs, he made an elaborate show of getting out of my way, rolling his eyes and making a theatrical “after you” motion. In the process, however, he managed to trip someone else with his dog leash. This led to an exchange of harsh invective.

“You inconsiderate asshole!” shouted the guy who got tripped.

“I was getting out of his way!”

“What are you doing with a goddamn dog in here?!”

“Shut up, old man! I’ll smash you!” (I liked that threat. “Hulk smash!”)

“Go ahead!” (The guy wanted to be smashed? Odd.)

And it went on like that. It looked serious for a minute, but no one actually got smashed in the end. I did, however, find myself next to the dog guy and the old lady on the subway platform a short time later. (I wonder what she thought of this guy, who might have been her grandson or something, just totally freaking like this.) Feeling compelled to acknowledge the situation I’d caused, I said that I thought the other guy overreacted (which I would have said to the other guy as well, had I been standing beside him, as both guys clearly overreacted). The dog guy vehemently agreed.

“He has as much right to be here as that guy!” he exclaimed, pointing at the dog.

Really? I wondered. Did the dog buy a ticket? If not, the other guy probably had just a little bit more right to be there. But I didn’t bother pointing this out.

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