Schrödinger’s Cookies

Every time I get on a subway train, I do an assessment of my fellow travelers in case of an emergency. There are the ones who are obviously going to be hysterical and require some handling. There are others who appear competent and might be good at figuring out how to open the doors if we have to or to jerry rig some kind of comm setup. I know I have my flashlight to contribute to our self-rescue! It’s almost a disappointment when nothing happens.

On  the train this morning there was a guy with a huge box of homemade cookies. The box didn’t have a lid, just clingfilm across the top, so you could see all the cookies–there were at least 5 kinds. And was a huge box! I just made a pretend box with my hands to estimate and then measured my estimation and it was 27 inches across. So it was pretty unwieldy, especially because he was kind of trying to hold it up with just one hand like a waiter, which seemed reckless to me. The subway was crowded and jerky and there were several times I thought he was done for, but he kept it together. Eventually a seat opened up and he plopped into it with visible relief. But then! The train slowed down and came to a halt in the tunnel, because possibly some people were going to get where they were going on time and that is not supposed to happen.

Of course the first thing I thought when the train stopped was, “How long would we have to be stopped in order for this guy to start handing out cookies?” I mean, if you are on a crowded train full of cranky people and you have a huge box of cookies THAT WE CAN SEE (no lid!) and you know that you and your cookies have the power to cheer everyone up and break the tension, you have to do some tough moral calculations. You don’t want to start handing them out right away, because that’s weird, and people might think it was a terrorist plot—stall the cars and hand out poison cookies! Actually I just freaked myself out with what a good plot that would be. Remember during the blackout when people were just handing out water? Madness!

So anyway you want to wait a good chunk of time before handing then out but not so long that you seem like a dick. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only person who was thinking about the cookies. Pretty soon word would have spread even to the back of the car that there was a huge box of them with us. You would also have to factor in the consequences of having handed them out once we did get off the train. If you were headed to the office, you could arrive with no cookies but with a great story, which is solid gold office currency. But what if you were taking them to a children’s ward at the hospital or to some nice old folks? “Sorry, no cookies, I gave them to my subway friends.” The worst would be if you started handing them out and the train started right then. You’d be stuck, like,  “So now do I  keep handing them out or just awkwardly stop and pretend not to notice the people who didn’t get cookies?” If I was that guy I would have died a thousand deaths, but the train started moving again and I never learned what he might have done.

Then on the way home, I smelled smoke and the car stopped, and then everything turned off. You know how they have one way where they stop but the train is still running, humming and stuff? This was not that. The train was all the way off, although the lights were on. We could hear people outside the train talking to each other and I was kind of excited at the thought that we would possibly be evacuated and get to walk down the train tunnel to safety. A DREAM COME TRUE. PLUS I HAD MY FLASHLIGHT. The announcer came on a few times and said we were being held because of a “smoke situation” on the tracks, which is obviously hilarious, and then finally it started again.

Commuting is fucking exhausting.

Leave a Reply