Hey, I’m all for self-empowerment. I like the mindset of the entrepreneur, especially the young entrepreneurs on the train, the ones selling candy, the comedians, those a capella guys. At times the entertainment value of these performances leans towards the alternative — hell, I even like that tone deaf guy who bangs on the bongo with the hole in it, and that guy who sings with the two-stringed guitar that he found in the garbage. And who says you need teeth to be a subway car performer? The subway car break dancers, they’re the ones that I’m on the fence about. I’m a very nervous train rider. I have panic attacks in tight places where I’m confined for a period of time. When I start thinking that there isn’t enough air in the car, I start hyperventilating. And most of the cars you can’t walk through, so you’re trapped.
The break dancers, a jaunty bunch who tend to burst in on the scene suddenly, while you’re preparing to read your New Yorker. On the A line, they generally come in on 59th Street where the train going uptown is non-stop express all the way to 125th Street. So for 66 blocks, over three miles, you’re part of a captive audience. They engage in lightening speed acrobatics to the chants and yelps of their fellow break dancers, and of course to the accompaniment of the boom box. That screaming, the sudden movements, the loud music in the tight car — now this is enough to make me take my clothes off and go screaming up and down the aisle – for some reason claustrophobics like me think there will be more air if they take their clothes off. Yeah, I know it doesn’t make any sense… My neurosis, it also involves a fear of being kicked in the jaw by the one doing back flips to ‘It’s Just Begun’ by Jimmy Castor. What am I supposed to do if he breaks my jaw with his flailing foot? This ain’t Cirque du Soleil, but a rag tag bunch who probably don’t give too much thought about the precision of their movements. Ah, see – I’ll bet you never thought about that one. There are people who are amazed at the spectacle of these performers, and some who find them novel. But I watch through fear-widened eyes. I strain my head as far back as I can into the wall of the car, take shallow breaths, and pray for the performance to end without anybody getting kicked in the face.