This gentleman was proselytizing on the subway. I have only known Caribbeans and Africans to participate in this sort of unbridled subway testifying, though I’ve seen the odd middle-aged Latina perform a tamer Spanish version, and once an Orthodox Jew.
Mostly folks try to pretend that the person isn’t even there. Which is, of course, impossible. If the person is ridiculous enough, people will crack coy smiles and giggle to themselves, or break the unspoken but assiduously enforced eye contact rule, looking to the person across from them with one of those, “hey, what can you do?” kind of looks. The entire ordeal proceeds by rote — even sometimes on the part of the performer — each life touched not enough to matter, but enough to be annoyed.
But the experience isn’t annoying, really. It is often grating — producing the kind of woe-is-me regret that causes one to consider leaving New York as the person’s voice seamlessly takes on the form of every worst intention and idea lurking below the surface of our noble and usually well-meaning selves. Still, the performance itself is fascinating. Some person, for whatever reason, has left the tracks, gone rogue. Not in the murderous-rapage kind of way, but within a completely socially acceptible form that we have all taken on as part of the cost of doing business with the MTA. And unlike in the case of the homeless, or musicians, these people don’t want your money. They want your soul. Most will settle for your practiced inattention. Then, when the train stops, they step off and take their show to the next car.
Country life has removed the encounters with the subway people, however life does occasionally present unsuspecting subway moments. Down here its Walmart. On a sunny saturday, which is the WORST time to go to walmart, you get your street preacher aprentice honing his craft. I used to ignore them but my wife is a country girl and will stop to hear ANY pitch thrown her way. I cannot impress upon her to address them with caution but under no circumstances should she ever ever stop cause then they got ya… I ask myself what is it that drives them to believe they have it down pack well enough to take it to the masses? Maybe its arrogance. Im not sure they make them any more arrogant than me. Maybe its confident. Check. Maybe its fearlessness. Ok. Got that too… I have all those things and yet I am not willing to take it, whatever it is, to the masses. I wonder why that is?
The only answer that I can come up with is that I havent gone that crazy yet.
it’s the thoroughness of the brain-washing. though in some ways i hold fast to my christian upbringing, i use it mostly as a springboard into broader beliefs. however there is a seed planted and subtly cultivated to ironically give desire to harvest. not your own ills, but your given external locus of control. harvest at all cost, lest your own soul be damned. i know all too well that urge to answer a supplanted call. a false sense of superiority. you are taught very well that others are lesser and they know not what they do.
When I see that kind of stuff happen it makes me wonder what in my life I feel that passionate about. I love the visual arts, but that’s not something I’d start yelling about. And I don’t have kids yet, so I’ll have to wait before I go John Q on the subway. Mostly I find it curious, and entertaining, and challenging, and rude.
One time I was on a bus in the tunnel and this guy got up and wanted everyone’s attention. I swore he was going to hijack the bus or blow it up but all he wanted to do was talk about the bible while we were stuck in traffic, so it’s not just a subway phenomenon.