Grievances of a college student


Frankly, I'm fed up. I know my 5-foot-2 frame doesn't exactly qualify as earth-shatteringly intimidating, so I instead administer my grievances on this yellowed piece of college-ruled paper, hanging by a reinforcement as evidence of last semester's fury. That's right — I am on the train, so frustrated that I am channeling 1996 by scribbling all this nonsense down with old-fashioned pen and paper.    

I have always been the kind of girl that apologizes to a stranger when they rudely bump me. I always resorted to rationalizing that my hips were probably in the way, but not anymore, at least not during the three days I wake up at the crack of dawn to make the treacherous commute into the Big Apple.

Once I step off the New Brunswick station platform, I become jaded and age 25 years, suddenly harboring inexcusable ferocity toward anybody that takes more than their allotted time to find a seat on the train. Is it impossible to comprehend the conductor's instructions? "Walk back for seats, we will not move if you continue to stand in the vestibules, you idiots." I added that last part, but it's obvious that the conductor is choking back a few choice four-letter words. I direct that same rage to anybody that tries to talk to me. Do I look like I want to engage in idle chitchat? Don't you know I'm on my way to New York? I'm filling out The New York Times' crossword puzzle and that should scream "unapproachable."

Let me give you the play-by-play here: I'm on my way home from work on a Monday — a day that I would ordinarily have off, so I've just spent the last 20 minutes in a mad dash — down the stairs of my building on West 59th St., down two sets of stairs to the catch a downtown A-train and up the stairs to New York Penn Station's main floor just in time to see the word "ALLABOARD" illuminated next to the 7:31 p.m. train (yes – this train boards two hours after my usual weekday departure). I ignore the word, which peers down at me with a familiar mocking grin, and race to the west gate, down the broken escalator, onto the train and estimate that I have now run into anywhere between six to eleven people without apologizing.

At this point, I have broken into a cold sweat and by the time I realize my legs are numb, I can barely breathe past the quart of phlegm that's nesting at the back of my throat. The thing keeping me from screaming is the impending hour of peace and quiet I enjoy on the ride home. After settling into my own two-seater — the train is nearly empty, unlike the 5:54 p.m. train I have to pile into with the rest of New York — I pop my earphones in and notice the twenty-something-year-old blonde across from me. Within seconds, I'm annoyed by her pink briefcase and matching bejeweled cell phone that I catch a glimpse of before she drops it back into her coat pocket — something I may have offered a sincere compliment on months prior to my commuting days.

After consciously reaffirming my long-standing aversion to blondes, which I swear, is not completely unfounded, I reach past the three-inch thick bundle of paperwork I swimmingly volunteered to tackle during my birthday weekend and find my book. I get so far as the third line before I'm interrupted by Sean Kingston's "Replay" ring tone blaring out of the blonde's pocket. Even with my earphones in place, I can hear each of Sean's words rapped in all their idiocy. With no evidence of attempted hustle, she answers the call, silencing the song I never thought I'd feel nostalgic for.

Her voice shrieks like the audible and intangible equivalent to non-tragic road kill — you know, the kind you can't possibly feel empathetic toward, the kind that makes you think the squirrel that dared to cross Interstate 95 at midnight deserved to eat rubber. As the inevitable icing, she's absurdly loud, enough to warrant more than a few dirty looks from the handful of passengers in our car. Four minutes pass and I realize I've read the same line 16 times but can only recall the contents of the blonde's conversation, which is now on speakerphone — one of the seven deadly sins of a public space. Her new nail polish, or "neeeel vah-nish" as she so shrewdly called it, is "faaaaabulous!" Seriously? Nobody should exert that much energy over nail color and this coming from a polish enthusiast. I shoot a few snarls her way, much to no avail, and then proceed to stare.

I turn away in defeat (she's still spewing squeals, no matter my reaction) and adjust my attention toward the conversation of two young girls whose voices strengthen by the second as to engage in a hostile competition with the blonde. I force a reciprocated smile their way, demonstrating our collective aggravation with the blonde's cell phone conversation, which has been switching from English to what sounds like a Pig Latin.

Somehow, I'm not unnervingly bothered by voice-pollution flooding out of these girls' mouths, perhaps because I can see both participants in the flesh, leaving me remotely tolerant of their conversation bordering on loud. I do not doubt their sanity. But the moment that second person's voice is absent, muffled by a telephone receiver as with the blonde, I need to shut it down — STAT. Once I step off the New Brunswick station platform, I question everybody's sanity, supplementing that doubt with grimacing sneers.

I can't help but think my mother didn't raise me this way.

Lauren Caruso is a Cook College senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in environmental policy, institute and behavior.


Lauren Caruso

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