For as long as we can remember, we (and, basically, the Internet) have had a certain fascination with people doing weird and freaky things on the subway. Perhaps it is because a subway train — about the size of this blogger’s studio apartment — is a compact moving container for an array of diverse humanity, all packed together and, on a good day, surviving in harmony and reaching their intended destinations without harm or difficulty. On a bad day, however, a piece of the puzzle fails to fit, the precarious peace ruptures, and all goes ape shit. A video taken in these circumstances is far more interesting than one taken out in the whole wide world, because the subway rules for co-existence are more stringent based on the fact that space is at such a premium, even in tightly constructed New York City. It is a cross-section of life, a tiny microcosm reflecting our larger world, or at least, that’s what we’d say if we were anthropology majors.
Hence, when a guy takes off his pants after a prolonged freakout on the subway, SHIT GETS CRAZY. And when someone is annoying on the subway — embracing a pole with his/her whole body, parking a bike in the way of everyone, blasting whatever horrible music he/she prefers, getting on before you get off — it is excessively annoying. What is funny is funnier, what is crazy is crazier…it is the way of the subway. And since everything that happens down there must be reflected upon up here, EVERYTHING is videotaped and put on YouTube.
Thus, we have come by such subway video classics as “Man Kisses Rat,” “Rat Crawls on Man,” “The Great Spaghetti (Lo-Mein) Incident,” “Man Fights With Subway Nail-Clipper,” “Bloody Loco Is Sort of Terrifying,” “Jerk Insults Woman,” and “Rats Fight Over Bread.” And so on, and so on, and so on, until we are awash in a wave of subway videos and life outside of the world of subway videos seems bare and meaningless, hardly life at all.
We can hardly blame the citizen videographers, who, stuck on a subway train witnessing something “special” can hardly help but to document. After all, we reward them with attention, blog posts, shock and awe, laughs and screams. But has this gone on too long? Is there anything left to be videotaped, on the subway? Has it truly come to this? This: Man Licking Shoes on New York Subway.
In this case, along with a lot of voracious shoe-licking, our civilian videographer Transitaboo gives us a little extra. A poem! How artful. Here it is, imperfect rhymes and all.
The Shoe Licker Poem
So there I was, minding my own business, in my seat on the train.
Reading ads that zoomed by and passively listening to the repetitive announcements again.
When I noticed the guy across from me, laughing awkwardly, and staring down yonder.
WTH could it be, I wonder.
So, I proceeded to follow his eye’s path and was amazed at what I saw.
There it was, in plain sight, was a man sitting quietly next to the middle door.
Ferociously polishing his Sunday’s best, like nothing was wrong.
Dumbfounded when he took off his shoes and began washing it with his tongue.
A wise and clever passenger, could not think it unfair.
For me to take out my camera and start recording right there.
And that’s exactly what I did.
It surely served him right.
You can’t expect to spit and clean that shoe.
And don’t expect a small red light.
We hereby declare The Golden Age of subway videos OVER. Oh, sure, we’ll post them. But we’ll never feel the same way again.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2011