Thursday, January 24, 2008


This is the blog entry that will fully illustrate my own personal craziness.

I was on the subway a couple of weeks ago, heading out to visit a friend in Queens. I was standing at one of the center poles, along with two kind of rough-looking guys who were engrossed in conversation.

In mid-sentence one of the guys, who was chewing gum, opened his mouth and spit his gum onto the floor of the subway car. He and his friend resumed talking like it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Now, even by New York standards, this is foul behavior. I’ve never seen anyone intentionally spit gum onto the floor of a subway train.

I stood there, looking at the shiny pink blob near my feet. I imagined all the nightmare scenarios to come: heedless passengers stepping in the gum, cursing as they tried to wipe it off their shoes, tracking it all over the otherwise clean linoleum of the subway car.

I debated what to do. I’d just been to Starbucks, and I had a napkin in my pocket. My choices seemed to be:

1. Pick up the gum.
2. Hand the napkin to the guy and ask HIM to pick up the gum.
3. Ignore the gum.

No matter how hard I tried, #3 wasn't an option. I seriously contemplated #2, but risking a confrontation didn’t seem smart. You never know who has a weapon or who will resort to a smackdown. There were other people in the subway car, but I doubted that any of them would come to my rescue should this guy get pissed at me.

So I steeled myself, grabbed the napkin, bent down and picked up the gum. I wadded it up and put it in my pocket, looking pointedly at the offender. He had a surprised, sheepish look on his face, but did not look me in the eye. We said nothing to each other. His conversation with the other man halted entirely.

I got out at the next stop and threw the gum away. I’m still not sure I did the right thing. Did I debase myself entirely? What would you have done?

(Photo: Feelin' Groovy in Chelsea, Jan. 2008)


  1. You are a hero, saving many riders from having to scrape yucky used up gum off the bottoms of their shoes. EWWW!! Maybe the spitter learned something too.

    I salute you!

  2. Steve, you made the perfect choice. I had a similar experience with a plastic coke bottle. By picking it up with out confrontation, you let the offender know that he was wrong, but didn't give him the opportunity to be belligerent about it.

  3. I think you taught that guy something. I think you are brave and I would have been chicken and just turned away. But you were saying "keep this place clean, don't be gross" and I believe the guy got that message.

    Stepping in gum is horrible--

  4. groovy has always been such a groovy word.

  5. you did absolutely the right thing.

  6. I am met with this kind of thing every so often in NYC but usually it involves someone walking down the street and just tossing off their garbage (napkins, gum wrappers, coffee cups) as they go. Many times I will simply pick the item up without thinking and hand it to the person saying "Oh, here. You dropped this" and they always take it. But, if I think about it too much I get nervous and will just pick it up myself. In your situation I think I would have done the same thing. It sent the message AND saved someone from stepping in it. Good going!

  7. Well done Steve!! You did the right thing - it seems the guy wasn't even thinking about his actions judging by his response to your picking up the gum. We just can't wait around for everyone else to do stuff, sometimes you just have to do it yourself.
    Ms Soup