Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Subway Proposition

For the impact the city has had on my life the past three years, I don't write enough about New York.
Here goes.

Last week, I was coming in from JFK (Airport) to my friend's apartment in the Lower East Side. This subway ride is one of the few I enjoy, because the J train is always clean (by NYC standards), most of the ride is above ground, and I always get plenty of room to sit down and pass out. In fact, most J train rides from the airport are usually much more comfortable than the plane trip that got me there.

When the J train pulled up to the station, I walked on determined to relish the next 50 minutes, as this was definitely the only subway ride that week that would not be filled with the stresses of fighting rats for the food I bought at the deli, pretending to not notice obnoxious couples making out in the middle of the car, or fighting aggressive homeless people for even the smallest piece of pole to hold on to. So you understand my annoyance when a pudgy little Indian man in a wrinkled suit and his overzealous father walked onto the train and proceeded to awkwardly stare at me for the next two minutes.

Despite the fact that there are more than a billion Indians on planet earth, most are still absolutely dumbfounded when they see another Indian walking on the street anywhere outside of the motherland. Those of us who grew up in a country heavily populated with white people tend to hide this amazement well. Those who grew up in the motherland...not so much. Typical signs of amazement include intense staring, waving, pointing, grunting, the Indian head nod, and complete paralysis. I was hoping this might be the cause of said excessive staring. It was not.

After five minutes of ruined subway ride, I finally looked over at the little man and his father. Man might be too generous of a term - this kid was somewhere in between puberty and my little's brother's age. I suppose this is part of the reason why his overzealous, now bouncing father said to me, "What are your qualifications, Madame?"

"What are your qualifications" is Indian for any of the following:

- How educated are you?
- How much money do you make?
- How much money is your family worth?
- If I gagged you, tied you up, threw you in my car, and wrote to your parents for ransom, how much would they pay, and would any of the payment be made in gold?

Asking this question is also step one in figuring out suitable matches for your child in an arranged marriage. The other steps are:

2. Listen to the answer in step one
3. Say yes or no

It appeared this little Indian...boy and his father were riding around in expanse of the New York City subway system to find a potential suitor to marry. At this point, I had two options: engage in this conversation to any capacity or appear to be crazy. Crazy it was!

To answer the question, "What are your qualifications, Madame?" I simply looked at the little boy's father, and very poignantly said, "Schwein!" This of course means "pig" in German. I spent the next ten minutes drooling in my sleep, dramatically twitching, kicking my bag, and making weird noises...basically anything to seem as undesirable as possible.

Convinced I had done my part in playing insane, I looked back at the little Indian boy and his father, who WAS STILL LOOKING AT ME. The father blinked a few times, then very carefully asked, "What are your qualifications, Madame?" Somehow my Schwein-filled, drooling, twitching, kicking self was still desirable enough for this man to pursue me for his son. Since I already had half of the car believing I was some kind of schizophrenic, I couldn't continue with crazy. So I looked back at the father and said, "I dropped out of high school. I work as a bartender."

The father and his son got off at the next stop.

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