Celebrating Two Years in New York City: A Look Back at the Time I Got Punched on the Subway

Not to get all promote-y or anything, but in Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in New York City (read it!), he compares NYC to a girl who you constantly chase, but is ultimately out of your league. I totally get this statement, but for me, New York City is more like that badass bitch who will slash your tires after she finds out that you’re dating her ex-boyfriend. In this analogy, the “ex-boyfriend” that I’m referring to is my Hopes & Dreams, and New York City is some psycho-yet-gorgeous Amanda from Melrose Place-type figure who keeps sabotaging me as soon as I get close to achieving what I want. She knows she’s hot, and she wants to keep the naive, Midwestern transplant Alisons of the world in their places. I might not be from Minnesota, but I am an NYC transplant– and let me tell you, my transition into the ruthless New Yorker that I am today (well, as ruthless as one can be while wearing a grandma skirt with burrito stains down the front of it) has been anything but smooth. Last Friday marked my two-year anniversary in NYC, and it got me thinking about the telenovela that has been the last couple of years. Which in turn got me thinking about the time I got punched on the subway when I first moved here.

It all started with a trip to Trader Joe’s in Union Square. You see, back in California, I shopped for groceries by leisurely meandering to my neighborhood farmer’s market, where I carefully selected delectable locally-grown produce beneath the warmth of ever-present sunlight. But in NYC, grocery shopping is a wholly different experience. Almost everything is overpriced or shitty… well, except for Trader Joe’s. New Yorkers know this, which is why they sometimes have to wait in line just to enter the store, and always wait in line for 30 minutes to exit the store. Anyway, cue the hazy mists and jangly music that will take us back in time to January 2010, when I first moved here with nothing but two suitcases, a dream, and a constant craving for bargain hummus. After surviving the sanity test that is Trader Joe’s, we find me lugging bags of cheapo health food back to the subway to return home.

At this time, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Finally, I had healthy food in this city without draining my bank account! I wasn’t going to starve to death! I plopped down onto the subway seat, feeling like a real goddamn New Yorker, wearing a winter coat and ridin’ the rails with my reusable grocery bags. But hold up– just when I thought I had actually succeeded at something in NYC– even a menial task like feeding myself– that wretched bitch, Mistress New York, decided that it was time to learn me a lesson.

A teenage girl with special needs entered my subway car. She said “hi” to me, and– friendly Californian that I am– I responded with a smile. The girl asked me if I liked reading, and I was like, “Totally! Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card!” Then she asked me if I liked science fiction, and I shook my head. I’m sorry, but reading about people with names like “Zorbon” hanging out on flying saucers in faraway galaxies generally doesn’t whet my whistle. Anyway, the girl asked me why I didn’t like science fiction, and I said, “I don’t know, it just doesn’t interest me.” Then she punched me in the face repeatedly.

I’m not lying. I got punched in the face for saying that I didn’t like science fiction. And I cried into my reusable grocery bags all the way home. I wasn’t mad at the girl for punching me (after all, she did have special needs and probably shouldn’t have been riding the subway alone in the first place). I wasn’t even mad that I lost one of my favorite vintage earrings in the beatdown. What made me burst into profuse, ugly-faced, public tears was the fact that no one on the subway even turned their heads when the girl was layin’ the smackdown on me. They acted like it was totally normal, like I deserved to get hit for not being into Battlestar Galactica.

Right when I thought I was doing something right, that conniving lunatic Heather Locklear/NYC had to teach me (literally in the most painful way possible) why New Yorkers stare at their shoes on the subway, and don’t talk to strangers. Over the next two years, she taught me many more lessons– like, how to spend the night in a subway station when all transportation is cut off during a blizzard, and how to live with a bulimic/bipolar/drug addict/squatter/animal hoarder with violent tendencies in Bushwick. NYC has tested me in the most extreme ways, and not all of them have been pleasant.

But you know what? NYC has also provided me with countless amazing art/musical/theatrical shows (usually for free or cheap), a great group of friends who have goals and are not burnouts, and a babe to smooch on. I’ve gotten to do things like: fall down the escalator at MoMA after a few too many free drinks at an after party, risk my life climbing onto rooftops at sunset while wearing inappropriate footwear, and be told to “get out of the shot” while stalking my idol Tom Hanks when he was filming a movie in Central Park. I’m meeting people and doing things– while my life may be a little like a soap opera and NYC might be Amanda from Melrose Place, there’s a reason why that show was on the air for so long. I’m never bored with New York City, which is why I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Plus, I gotta show that bitch who’s boss.

Photo credits: Bronx Banter Blog, NY Daily News

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About the author

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food, but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends to have a flair for the dramatic.