Thursday, March 10, 2016

While the words of the prophets may be written on the subway walls, what's said in the subway is not mentioned in the song

At Downtown Crossing they said that the Orange Line was experiencing slight delays due to a disabled train at Sullivan.  That's what they say when the wait is soul crushingly long and the train won't arrive until ten minutes after the Rapture (plus side: no RTCs in your way.)  Also something about a train at Sullivan.

The Rapture didn't come, but here's the thing about delays: the people who would have gotten on earlier trains didn't because there weren't earlier trains.  The platform was filled with at least ... ok, I was going to go for hyperbole but... no.  Imagine the most full subway platform in the history of the Boston T.  That was merely the Red Line at South Station.  It didn't hold a candle to the crowd waiting for the Orange Line.

Here's the other thing about delays: the stops before your stop were waiting a long time too and every single fucking one of the people at those stops tried to get into the first train to come through after the interruption in service changed into delays in service.

So the train is already packed when it shows up at the packed platform and I didn't even get near the damned thing.

Next train, same general conditions apply because you just can't fit enough people one one train to make a dent, but I got on.

Now I'm at the ass end of the train because:
a) That's the closest to where the stairs and escalator come up
b) That's closest to where I want to be when I get off the train at the end of the line.

We're crammed in tight.  We're packed like sardines, or rather like the Orange Line at rush hour when it's experiencing "slight" delays which is actually more tightly than sardine packers can even imagine conceiving or conceive imagining.  But we're not sardines.  We're people.  Real live people -- not sardines in a can.  Which is to say: we're fucking mammals whose respiration is in effect.

It's cold and rainy, it doesn't matter, our collective body heat has raised the temperature to the point that we could easily jump-start a small star.

After North Station we switch to above ground.  The Orange Line doesn't know what it wants to do, it runs as a ground train, it experiments with being an El between stops, goes full elevated for Malden Center, before returning to being a ground level train at Oak Grove.

Being at the ass end of the train means we can hear the rain that collected on the train while it was at a stop go sploosh off the roof when it starts up again.  The water does not cool the train.  It cannot.  We are too hot.  To touch us is to burn.  The splooshing water must be superheated by the time it actually goes sploosh.  It was on the roof, the metal roof, for long enough to gather into splooshable quantities.  Perhaps the hydrogen atoms have started to fuse into helium.  Who knows?  The point is that the forces of nature cannot compete with that many people packed that tightly.  The train does not cool.

We have surpassed mundane thermal dynamics and reached the platonic ideal of, "Oh my fucking god, it's hot!"

But that's not the worst part.  No.  We've got a preacher among us.  A loud preacher man.  But I can't hear him that well.

I'm at the back, the ass end of the ass end.  You know that door that you're not supposed to lean on?  I don't have a choice.  The sheer volume of people in the car pushes out in all directions and I am pushed against the door.  This is beyond leaning.  The pressure is such that if not for that door and the counter pressure it provides I'd likely be sent flying backwards into the compartment the door protects, and never be seen again.  If I were to succumb to the force of so many people in so small a space I would doubtless never be able to crawl back to whence I came, much less reach an exit.

So there I am, pressed against the rear wall, and the door in that wall.  My arm rests on the emergency call button case because otherwise it would have been pushed into the button itself and god only knows what would happen then.  What god?  Which god?  I do not know.  The god of compressed commuters I supposed.

The preacher is in the middle of the car.

For the longest time he repeats the same phrase over and over again.  I can't make out the first word.

"[---] is not in the bible."

What?  What is not in the bible?

Overcrowded subways?

At one point it sounds like "Porn is not in the bible."

I roll to disbelieve.  First off, it's full of porn, second: we're experiencing compression force unheard of even at the greatest ocean depths and temperatures that even the cores of stars cannot reproduce, who gives a fuck about what's in Saint Luke's browser cache?

From when I get on at Downtown Crossing he does not stop.  The same phrase again and again.  No rest or respite.  I think I finally hear him when we're above ground and have set off three separate early warning systems designed to detect the the temperature spike of a nuclear detonation.

"Pope is not in the bible!" he says.

Pope?  Alexander Pope?  My brain has melted and I think, "But he was in Deus Ex."  No.  He wasn't.  That was Bob Page.

Pope and Page don't sound much alike.  Sure, they share their first and last letters, but so do the words "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "am".  Truly, I say unto you, you cannot comprehend what happens to a brain at those temperatures.  Why can you not?  Because if your brain reaches those temperatures then you cannot comprehend.  Period.  Thus you are left without a frame of reference even after it cools down.

As we journey from the depths to the surface world, and as I finally hear his full message, he begins to expand.  Pope is not in the bible.  [something] is devil.  Roman Catholicism is not in the bible.  Catholicism is Antichrist.  Generally uninteresting drivel.  What about Moses' porn collection?  Damn it, I though that this might be interest-- no.  No, I didn't.

There's a certain kind of preacher where you know that even if you can fully comprehend all that they say, it still won't be interesting.

But back to being at the ass end of the train.  He was in the middle of the car.  Once I finally figured out what he was going on about not being in the bible, a point that he always returned to at least once every three sentences, I wanted to respond with, "You know what else isn't in the bible?  English.  So either make your argument in Hebrew or Koine Greek or Tace!"  ("Tace!" is "Shut up!" in the Latin.  If he's not going to stick to biblical language, why should I?)

So εν νω εχω this response but he's half a car away from me and I'd have to really yell for him to hear me clearly, and that would be rude to the other people in the subway car, and thus I never use it.

He gets off before the end of the line.  I get my first good look at him out the window.  Before I could only see the top of his head, and that just barely.

You know what else wasn't in the bible?  Subway preacher with a sign for Jesus around his neck.

Take your body heat and your bullshit and go somewhere else.  If not being in the bible makes you the Antichrist, then you are too, loud dude.

By the time we reach the end of the line the announcements over the PA are closer to true.

"We are experiencing moderate delays due to a disabled train at Sullivan."

"Moderate" means something like, "Really, really, soul crushingly, hope snuffingly, body wreckingly long" right?


  1. Reminds me of Fred's writing, when he isn't going all-out to make the theological point.

    This is a compliment.

  2. What Firedrake said.

    Also, I laughed really hard at Saint Luke's browser cache.

  3. Another well-written post, Chris. Thumbs up!

  4. While the papal critic brayed
    'bout his Christian god betrayed
    And announcements call mild warning
    And the Orange car is warming
    'til the sweat falls
    The words of the prophet, they echo in the subway's halls.
    As the train stalls.
    Trapped in the hell of transit.