In summer, there's an unspoken rule of subway riding.
If a train pulls in and a car is ghostly empty while all the others ones are bulging with people, don't get in. There's no air conditioning on that car.
Other times of year, the only time a car is ghostly empty is when a homeless person has a terrible odor. But that's not too common.
Tonight, I knew something was wrong with the Journal Square PATH pulled into Christopher Street station, and the car in front of me had empty seats. But it's not summer, so my instincts were slow. Or maybe it was holiday shopping that had dulled my reaction time. It registered slowly that all the passengers were piled into either end of the car in front of me, while the center was nearly empty.
"Urm, that ain't right," I thought. I turned to run to the next car as the doors slid open.
A pulsating mass of passengers poured out of the car at top speed. They raced to the next car. Damn! I'd never get on in time with that group. I'd miss the train!
GHOST CAR. I jumped in, aiming myself towards the remaining huddle of passengers cowering at one end.
So far, so good. But there's a catch. Huddle + empty seats can only equal one thing. I sniffed. P.U. Squinting to avoid the full effect, I peeked towards the car's center.
Ah, drunk guy covered in yellow vomit.
Nine minutes to home. I covered my nose with my coat and concentrated on nice things. Beagles. Mango and sticky rice. Ticklish feet. Yancey doing a happy dance when he sees or hears something he really likes.
It worked this time. But I'll be more alert in the future.