Some people treat their morning rush hour commute as a balletic dance, one in which they try their best not to infringe on other people's space despite the increasingly limited space available on any given train. Other people treat it as a winner-takes-all battlefield, kill or be killed, seat or be unseated. But usually, even when things get verbally heated between passengers, they don't turn into a prolonged stun gun stand-off.
The express 2/3 train was packed to the gills, as it is most winter mornings, with mildly disgruntled and dramatically bundled up straphangers around 9 a.m. on Wednesday. At West 96th Street, a man in a puffer coat (seen above) boarded and attempted to squeeze into an empty seat between two women. It became immediately clear that this man enveloped in down was not going to fit comfortably into this spot.
Despite that, the man perched himself on the edge, and gradually started to scooch his way into the seat. As he did so, he made a lot of physical contact with the women to his left, who told him there was no room, and he was invading her space and elbowing her. The man argued that there was an open seat there and he was going to sit in it, despite elbowing and pushing her as he tried to squeeze in. And as their argument continued, the woman took out a keychain stun gun and threatened to use it on him if he touched her again.
The stand-off proceeded for the next several stops, with the woman clutching the stun gun right next to him. I and the other passengers around them held our collective breaths, wondering if the guy was about to get stung with 3 million or so volts. Every minute or so, she warned him, "if you elbow me again, I'm going to tase you." The argument almost came to a head in the video below:
The woman didn't end up using the stun gun. When she eventually got up to exit the train, the woman on the other side of the man did as well, and the two commiserated over how annoying he was. "You coulda just stood, bro!" one of the women said as they shook their heads in unison.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I witnessed. Is this the future of all subway etiquette disputes? Could this have been avoided if the man had just taken his jacket off instead of winterspreading? Did the woman go too far by threatening him with the stun gun out, or was it a reasonable New Yorker reaction to the man's inconsiderate stubbornness? And would he have even felt the power of the stun gun through the puffer?!