The steel doors of the Q train slid open and the crowd of beachgoers scurried on. With the peak of summer in full affect, many New Yorkers used their weekends to escape the harsh heat that radiated from the concrete. The “well-to-dos” sought refuge in their Upstate lake houses and Hampton summer shares, while the rest of us resorted to the local beaches. Coney Island was no Copacabana, but it did have its own distinct charm.

After a balmy 90 degree afternoon on the boardwalk, my friend Mikey and I scored seats for the 47 minute ride back into Manhattan. Many hated the MTA, but I found slight amusement from the walks of life that perused the subway. Ride the train enough and your threshold for the amazing, shocking, and disturbing will escalate, making you unfazed to what would definitely shock a sheltered tourist from Nebraska. It was enjoyable to watch the reality that unfolded around me.

As usual, the train was boisterous with too many conversations happening simultaneously. Across the way was a large family (a few adults, a few teenagers, and a number of kids) who had also spent the day at Coney Island. The younger kids excitedly played with a stuffed penguin they won at a carnival game while the older members talked over each other about the humidity, the latest apartment building gossip, and the evening’s plans back in Flatbush. And unsurprisingly, the teens swiped and selfied away.

At the King’s Highway stop, a pack of 5 young gentleman boarded the decently crowded train with one of them immediately locking eyes with the teenage girl sitting across the way. After a few seconds of blankly looking at each other, the guy finally murmured “Hey, wassup”, which was received by a disgusted eye roll from the girl.   

“How come you haven’t called me?” she asked with enough disdain in her voice to make the young man regret his decision to greet her in the first place.

“Yo, I lost my phone a few weeks ago. Dead ass. And I’ve been, umm, trying to get all my numbers back. I was going to…ummm… hit you back soon”. He nervously fumbled his words, hoping to say the right thing to get himself out of this unexpected hole. They say hell hath no fury than a woman scorned and even I could feel her rage from my seat.

“Whatever,” the girl scoffed as she revereted her attention back to her phone.

Unless fate decide to pry the subway doors open and free him from embarrassment, this guy was stuck in an extremely awkward spot two feet from the girl. It didn’t help that his crew watched the who ordeal go down and vocally heckled him right after. He took off his Knicks snapback to wipe the sweat from this brow, gathering his thoughts.

“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, IT’S SHOWTIME!”

Before he could do anything more, his friends jumped into the middle of the train to announce the start of NYC’s finest form of free entertainment: subway acrobatic pole dancing. Most consider the “showtime dancers” a social nuisance due to the risk of getting kicked in the face from all the flailing limbs, but I found their talents impressive. To perform gymnastics on a 60 mph train in a tightly confined space? That’s pure skill. Someone switched on their boombox to Beyonce’s “Love On Top” (Ted Smooth Remix) and each member took turns dancing and gracefully flipping on the handle bars, including the guy who got put on his blast, and he turned out to be the best dancer out of the 5. I peered over to the girl during his routine and she actually looked up from her phone, watching him with a slight glimmer in her eyes.


As the dance crew dispersed to collect donations from the crowd, the guy walked passed the girl without even looking at her, but surpassingly she tapped him on his hip which made him turn around. She grabbed a dollar from purse and dropped it in his Knicks snapback. They looked at each other again, but the intensity was gone. So the resolution to calming a scorned woman’s fury? Great dance moves.

The train started to pull into Newkirk Plaza and the crew got ready to disembark. But before they did, the girl told the guy to hand over his phone to which he did with no second of hesitation.

“Now you have my number”. He smiled with relief and got off.

There are fewer things more New York than that. The things you witness on the subway.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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