[Update Below] As much as we love the subway—and boy do we love the subway—we do have some not-entirely irrational fears about it. Like, what if we end up on the garbage train? What if we get in the middle of a food-related fight? What if the rat guy is in our car? And more seriously, what if we fall into the tracks? Now we can add another probably irrational fear to that list: What if a homeless man stabs us in the head with a pencil?

We mention this because because, just after 9 a.m. this morning, an unidentified 45-year-old woman was stabbed in the head with a pencil by a homeless man. Really. The altercation occurred on the downtown 3 express train after the woman reportedly tried to get the man to stop smoking on the train. Luckily the train was pulling into the Chambers Street stop and fellow straphangers were able to alert the conductor.

The woman was taken to Beekman Hospital, where she was treated for a minor flesh wound and is listed in stable condition. Meanwhile the man was arrested by police in the station. His name is being withheld pending charges.

Update: Ronthea Williams was on the train and wrote about her experience here (and in the comments below). According to her the man in question wasn't homeless (or at least in no way appeared homeless, "He literally just looked like a guy on the train. I wouldn't have even thought that he was crazy had he not tried to light a cig on the train.") and the story was even more intense then initially reported. For example:

I'm in the middle of the car trying to calm people down and I look over and see blood gushing from the woman's face. While she was restraining the guy in the corner, he took out his knife (edit: according to reports it was a pen) and SLASHED her face - from her temple to her nose. Yes. I'm riding the train to work...and someone has just gotten stabbed in the face. Twilight-freaking-zone. The craziest part is that the woman continues to try to get the knife (pen) from the guy and beats his hand until he drops it. She's obviously running on adrenaline. We are still between 14th & Chambers.

And though the conductor slowed the train down to give the police time to arrive at the station they certainly weren't there when it got to Chambers Street. An MTA employee was there, however, and led the preternaturally calm woman to a seat before medical assistance (and the police) could arrive. Further, Williams tells us that

It was literally the people of the train that made the difference in the situation. The guy was apprehended because regular guys stood up to confront him. They were literally holding him up in the corner of the train until the police came.

So the silver lining we're choosing to take away from this story? Even in the face of a grisly scene during rush hour, New Yorkers will still step up and help each other out. Though we wish they could have helped out before a woman had her face slashed with a pencil.