One of the things that I had to get used to when I moved to a city with a mass transit system (aside from the smell) is the phenomenon of subway conversation. You know, when you’re just settling down to do the Sudoku puzzle in the free weekly tabloid and the guy next to you leans over and quietly whispers: “Is it okay if I take a picture of your feet?” *

Oh, you haven’t experienced this? I´m the only one lucky enough to get foot propositions? OK, in the interest of keeping this rant short, here is a list of things that do not make for a good opening line in the middle of rush hour:

1) “I like your earrings. My last girlfriend had ones like that in her nipples.” *

2) “You have such blue eyes. Isn´t it sad how the "pure race" is being taken over by these mixed breeds?” *

3) “Where are you headed? Me, I’m going to bash my ex-wife’s boyfriend with a baseball bat.” *

(* This really happened.)

Come on, guys. Those are all at least third-date conversations. There are icebreakers, and then there are causes for arrest. Please learn the difference. Talking to strangers on the subway is already a dodgy pursuit because we´re tired, crammed in like sardines, and did I mention the smell? So if you insist on doing it, at least do it cautiously. Suitable transit discussions with a person you’re never going to see again include the weather, asking for directions or subtle compliments that do not include any mention of your ex-girlfriend’s breasts.

I can’t fault just the guys, of course. I’ve also encountered plenty of batty ladies whose verbal nonsense left me desperate enough to hop off the train early and just walk the 5K in a blizzard. (Frostbite versus the ramblings of a lunatic, I think you know what the right choice is.) There was, for example, the nonagenarian who was convinced I was her best friend during “the war,” and no attempt to explain how the space-time continuum would make that impossible could convince her otherwise.

I´ve never been one to listen to music while travelling – I´m more of a book kind of person. But I am now convinced that the rise in Apple stock is not because iPods are cool and shiny, or even because people like music all that much. It´s that they´re a brilliant tactic to appear deaf to the noises around you. You don´t even need the expensive player, really, just a pair of $6 headphones with the cord tucked into your jacket to give off the illusion of music that would render futile any attempt at conversation by a neo-Nazi.

I think I may be onto something here. Six bucks is totally worth the price of an impenetrable shield from the crazies. Excuse me, I have to go to Best Buy ... this trip might even be worth braving the subway.

– Crystal Wood, Toronto

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