Saturday, May 2, 2009


I never had a problem with overindulging in alcohol, coffee, spending, or any of the other high profile pleasures that many must temper with repeated efforts at moderation.  Addictions were a foreign experience for me, and I pitied those weakened by cravings of various sorts.

So when I became sort of addicted to Scrabble on Facebook I enjoyed a nice long pause... contemplating the sensation of needing to log on and see if it was my turn in one of 7 or 8 games I had going on.  Facebook Scrabble allows you to take your time AND use a dictionary.  So bingos are not so rare, turns can often score 30 points or more, and a good rating allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment as it climbs, reflecting an increase in your expertise.  The honest truth is that I don't care whether I win or lose - each turn I take is full of pleasure.  I love playing around with my letters, I love knowing I could make three bingos with my current tiles - even if there is nowhere on the board to put any of them.  I get a thrill.  The Queen of Scrabble in my world is a new friend, Brenda, whom I met campaigning for the President.  She blows me away and beats me when we play.  I feel like I'm imposing on her busy life when I invite her to a game because she doesn't take her turns that quickly - but she takes spectacular turns when she does and I admire her brilliance immensely. 

Now I am employed again, after six lovely months of Scrabble at whim.  I have to take my turns at night - and of course on week-ends, like today.  On a work day I check early in the morning, but usually no one has answered my evening's last turn.  And, honestly, I never think about Scrabble while I'm at work... so maybe I'm not actually addicted to it.  I am just sinking my teeth into a new job in a new role - sales for the first time - so it takes a lot of concentration.  But I think that whatever I were doing my addiction to Scrabble is not a true addiction and I do have the ability to keep it in perspective.

Perspective is the secret to success in most things.  Another way to put it would be Priorities. Both of these motivate our judgement, our self-control; manage our appetites and lust for pleasures.  Having perspective is such an important life skill to teach kids these days.

I was in the 42nd Street train station last Saturday night - Port Authority - where I catch my subway to Brooklyn after I get off my bus from New York.  It was 1:30 a.m.  and my boyfriend Wayne needed me - he was very sick and alone in his apartment so I went in the middle of the night to take care of him (and get him to the hospital a few days later... he's much better now).

I had never taken a subway in the middle of the night.  It was quite fascinating.  I could have written this little episode in my "On the A Train" series (since I was waiting for the A train) but it took place on the platform.  

A pair of handsome young African American men stood talking by the A train side of the platform so I stood nearby, feeling a sense of security in their proximity.  A homeless man wrapped in layers of blankets and plastic with ropes and bungee cords shuffled around cursing angrily.  There were rough looking young men taking up a lot of space and being very loud, just playing, but enjoying the fact they seemed threatening... and who knows whether they were a threat to anyone or not.  More than half of the people on the platform, of every race and age, were intoxicated and staggering a little, smelling a little, slurring their speech a little.  The two young men by me were an exception and I enjoyed exchanging occasional smiles to let them know I was counting on them to help out if anyone gave me a problem.

Then two very young women came down the stairs, which were about 15 feet away from us, and leaned against the railing where it extends about 4 feet onto the platform.  One was caucasian and heavy set.  The other was Indian, and thin and very beautiful if you could see past her facial contortions and messy hair.  Both were very, very intoxicated... to the point of holding tightly on the railing to keep from falling down.  Their speech was slurred to the point of being unrecognizable.  They spoke in short spurts as if trying to remember - three words into a sentence - what they had started to say, but they forgot it that quickly.  And they often repeated what they said as if that would help them remember the rest.  "I'm gonna....  I'm gonna... I'm gonna."  I tried not to stare, but they were pretty loud and attracted a lot of attention with their blatant condition.  

After a short argument between them, which I could not understand at all, the white girl headed back up the stairs in the slow, pulling-on-the-railing-to-stop-from-falling-down way she had come down.  The Indian girl started to pull her jeans from left to right at the hip while making a grunting sound.  I didn't know what she was doing.  As she did this little dance she shouted up the stairs to her friend, "Come back!" attracting a lot of attention so that quite a few people - I'd say 10 or so - saw what happened next.  She pulled her jeans all the way down to her knees - along with a belt she never unbuckled.  I was shocked to see her undressing in the subway station, and was torn about running over and trying to get her to put her pants back up.  But I stayed put with my body guards, and glanced over at her frequently - half curious and half worried.  As soon as she had her pants down to her knees, which she kept together thanks to the belt, she slid her back down the stair railing and squatted right there at the bottom of the stairs.  'Oh!' I thought, 'She has to pee!' 

A few other girls were on the platform and started giggling loudly.  They really got a kick out of this scene.  One of the young men standing near me said to me, sort of apologetically, "I was thinking about helping her, but she's got vomit all over her.  I just couldn't go over there."  I smiled understandingly.  

Well, unfortunately, she didn't need to pee.  When she stood up and tried to wiggle her belted jeans back up (which did not work) we could all see a big pile of poo right where she had been squatting.  Everyone let out some kind of gasp at the sight of it, and I think I said something like, "I've never seen anything like that," when my two guys looked over to judge my reaction. 

She finally unbuckled her belt and opened her pants so she could get them back up. She couldn't manage to buckle her belt again.  Pulling on the railing and stumbling around her pile, which she managed to avoid with her feet, she slowly got back up the stairs, calling all the while for her friend.

Shortly afterward our A train came and we all jumped on, relieved to be away from that disgusting sight.  I kept thinking several thoughts over and over.  One: who is going to have to clean that up?  They really don't get paid enough whoever they are.  Two: how common is this sort of thing, seeing that I never find myself out in the middle of the night to witness it - does that mean it's rare? Or are young women and men debasing themselves on a regular basis because they have no idea how to say "no" to a drink when enough is enough? And Three: what would her mother do, say, think, feel... if she could have witnessed that scene?  

I have three daughters.  Have any of them ever had so much to drink that she reduced herself to an animal?  And if my children could only have been with me on that platform, and seen what can become of a young person like them simply because they drink too much, would it help them learn to control their own overindulgence one night, when this memory may just be the thing that saves their life?

That girl could never have defended herself against any kind of assault.  She was useless to even cross a street let alone determine if the light was green.  I can't help wondering how many people are alive by sheer luck after letting themselves become so helpless.

Young people, full of energy and promise, squander their health, their beauty, and their minds with such foolish behavior.  Oh how I wish I had that young woman's body to love and care for, and wash and feed.  Let her take my 51-year-old menopausal shell in return.  I would not abuse the great gift she has in her hands right now, with the whole world and her whole future waiting to be as spectacular as it can... but likely to be either short, or worse, long and unfulfilled.  What are the chances she snaps out of this and builds a foundation for her dreams, instead of piles of poo this Saturday night?

1 comment:

Don Zirilli said...

I'm addicted to Internet Chess.

Hey, I know a group that gets together (physically) to play Scrabble every couple of weeks. Let me know if you're interested. I know it's not the same...