Monthly Archives: March 2002

The Great Underground Theater, The A Train

I was punked.  I was duped.  They got me and they got me good.  I appreciated it though.  It was something new to add to the ridiculous list of my New York City experiences. Even lifelong New Yorkers were treated to something new today.

I get on the subway and take a seat by the map.  I get out my book and half read and half look around at the other people.  I’m on my way to JFK and I’m on the A train. Therefore there usually isn’t too much to look at, unless I see some other random people with all their luggage going to the airport as well.  No one in this car is going to the airport today, just the usual band of blue-collar workers coming home from wherever.

There’s a Mormon looking white guy with short brown hair standing up and preaching about God, same old same old.  He is going on and on about how most of us feel like we’re good people, but that we still won’t get into heaven.  Comparing ourselves to Saddam or Osama bin Laden won’t do the trick.  Us saying, “Sure, we curse a little and get drunk every now and then, but we’re good at heart,” won’t pass muster, whatever that means.

It’s all or nothing and being a part-time sinner is just as bad as being Hitler, Darth Vader, or Rush Limbaugh. I don’t like the acceptance standards of this “heaven” place. Sounds like it’ll just be all the kiss-asses that took names for the teacher when she had to leave the classroom for a few minutes. An eternity with those fools, no thank you!

I actually listen to this young guy though, mainly because my book is boring.  I’m on page eight and nothing I ever read is good until page fifty.  I pretty much have to suffer through the preliminaries and introductions before I get to the meat.  After I’m done with the book I’ll go back and reread and beginning and appreciate it more.

No one seems to be paying much attention to the out-of-place white guy with the Brooklyn accent preaching about damnation.  Nobody usually does. We tune these guys out as we would if a crippled vet came on begging for a piece of bread. Sad, but true. We are all so desensitized. Being on the train is the only piece and quiet I get in the day, even if it’s packed full of people.

He annoyingly paces back and forth, repeating himself ad nauseam until this one little white guy with reddish blonde hair and freckles gets up and ‘fronts the preacher.

“Why don’t you just get off this train?  We’re trying to go home in peace.  We don’t need to hear this right now.”

The preacher looks surprised, but not really threatened by this skinny kid up in his face with a rolled up New York Post.

The preacher responds, “You don’t have to listen, you go sit back down and read about the Mets and let me talk to these nice people here.”

“No!  You get off or shut up.  We’re decent human beings just trying to get to wherever we’re going and we don’t need you telling us that we’re evil.  We can go to church if we want to hear that stuff.”  This is happening right in front of me and I’m trying to decide if I should get involved if this punk ass kid starts shoving the preacher around.  I decide I will.

“Get back to your murder articles and celebrity pages.  Let me do what I came to do.”  At this the preacher turns his back and heads to the other side of car and continues right where he left off.  The reddish blonde kid with the glasses goes back to his seat in a huff and opens up his Post again.

The preacher continues, now more animated. You can see the adrenaline coursing through his veins and now people are interested.  The scene had given us a volt. The preacher feeds off this and starts going off on why that other kid wants to shut him up.

“You see ladies and gentlemen, I touched that guy.  I struck a chord.  He heard something that he didn’t like about himself and he got mad.  He’s not mad at me though, he’s mad at himself because he knows.  He knows deep down that he’s not going to make it into the kingdom of heaven.”  The guy pretends not to be listening, but it’s obvious to everyone that he’s hanging on every word. How could he not?

The preacher is feeling it now and comes back over to where the guy is sitting and still glaring at his paper.

“And you, now I’m just going to talk to you because you are the one that needs me the most and the one that’s being affected by the words coming out of my mouth.  Brother, I pray for you.  You know you need a change and you don’t like to hear what I say, but you need to hear it.”  Everyone on the train is watching now, just waiting to see what the little guy does at this challenge.  Right on cue he jumps up and yells at the preacher who takes a couple of steps back, right in front of me again.  “Quit bothering me!  Why can’t you just go away?  Go to another car!”

“No, you go to another car!  This is my car and these people and I need to talk.”  They are in each other’s faces now and the pagan has a very red face.  I figure the preacher could take him in a fight, but the little one is awfully pissed off right now, being completely humiliated by the uppity Christian warrior. I don’t even know if the Christian would fight back.

At the beginning of the scene I supported the skinny guy for telling the preacher to leave us alone.  I didn’t want to hear that or anything else.  I think most people in our car would agree with me.  By this time though, our preacher is getting some support from the masses.  A random older black man says, “Yeah man, let the brother speak.  Sit down.”

“Yeah, YOU go to another car if you don’t want to hear it,” a different guy chimes agrees.

The preacher looks around and nods with his supporters, very pleased with himself.  The red-faced man with the vein bulging in his forehead doesn’t back down.  He speaks to the masses now.  “Okay, you want to be entertained?  I’ll pass your time and I won’t annoy you like this clown is doing.  I can say some things.  Let me speak now.”

The preacher smugly takes a seat and says, “Go right ahead brother, give me something good. Whattya got?”  The angry man throws his paper at the preacher.  He promptly picks it up and opens it to the sports page, pretends to read, and  completely ignores the guy now on the podium.  People start laughing at how silly the preacher boy is making this other douche look.

The new guy continues his religious banter, pretty much saying everything the other guy was saying, but in a mimicking, sarcastic voice.  “All of you will go to hell if things don’t change.  You’re living a life that is not righteous and you know it.  It’s not enough to smile at the homeless and respect your wife only six days a week.”  He loses the sarcasm, but continues with his own sermon.

It’s right about at this point when people start to realize that this guy isn’t just making fun of other subway preachers, that he is in fact, one himself.  They had every motherfucker in there thinking there was going to be a fight and in the end the two partners got everyone’s attention for a good fifteen minutes.  As the skinny guy continues, the bigger guy gets up and passes out little pamphlets, which everyone takes and actually THANKS him for.

They get off at the next stop with the parting words, “We may have duped you today, but don’t let the devil dupe you into thinking that you’re leading a righteous life.  Take a look at yourself and how you’re living.  Jesus died so that we may live forever.  God bless.”  As soon as they walked off to trick a new car full of subway patrons, we all just look at each other and laugh our asses off.

“Those guys were funny.”

“They got us good, huh?”

Even five stops after they got off the train they were still in our heads.  I give them major props.  I was half a second away from jumping up and pushing the skinny one away from the preacher when it got volatile and they were swinging the paper around at each other.  They took it right to that point and then stopped. They got us good.

Upon reflection it did seem weird that this random pale-faced nerd would just up and step up to this preacher and be so aggressive with him, but this is all in hindsight.  None of us saw it coming, not a single saved or unsaved soul on the train.  Bravo Christian soldiers, bravo!

If those guys are going to be in heaven then maybe I’m all turned around on the issue.