Note: This is obviously not the post idea I thought up last week, since this just happened today. But I had to share this tale while it was still fresh...on me.
The train is typically fairly crowded when I get on to go home. I'm used to it, and I as long as my short self can find a pole to hold on to, I tend to take the ride standing up without too much trouble. Today, however, was an awful, grey, slow, rainy day, and I just wanted to curl up in a seat and play Angry Birds on my phone. I was thus a little bummed out to find no empty seats once I boarded the train. I heaved a small sigh and posted up in the corner, ready to begin the 25 minute ride home. But then, an upturn - a couple stops down two women get off, leaving me a nice place to rest. I was so excited...if only I'd know what was coming in my future.
And so I sit, rocking out to some showtunes and playing phone games, blissfully unaware of the terror awaiting me. As the train goes on, I become aware of something lumbering toward me. Even through my headphones, I hear the mumbling, the sniffling, heading toward the unoccupied seat next to mine. I steal a glace as the beast sits down - a huge woman, wrapped inside a parka which only added to the already impressive girth. She was fully decked out for winter, and while it has gotten a bit cooler down here in Georgia, I was reasonably sure our last stop didn't take us through Canada. The extra layers caused her to be literally dripping with sweat. She proceeded to plop down in the middle of the row, sliding across on a sweat puddle to straddle both the seats, while building herself a small fort out of the bags she carried. In between her and myself, she wedged a sticky brown paper bag which left a greasy residue behind and smelled faintly of rotting meat. I've discovered I get used to smells quickly, however, so soon enough the scent was seemingly gone and I figured (hoped, prayed) the ride would continue uneventfully. I scrunched up next the window in an attempt to regain a modicum of personal space, and went back to my Angry Birds. I just wanted to get home.
Then...the mumbling started. This woman had a voice like she started smoking at age 12 and literally never stopped chain-smoking. It caused me physical pain to listen to her speak - like someone was scraping jagged rocks across my ear drums. Christian Bale as Batman would have thought this noise too gravelly. And the mumbling - she started with few simple whispers and grunts, but soon she was in full monologue mode. I couldn't fully make out what she saying, but in gist I got that someone named Margie had picked a "sorry sucker" to be her "new buddy". And something about her boss and a pig...I was trying so hard to just not notice. The smell, the sweat, the crazy ramblings...I just didn't want to deal with it today. I turned the music up a bit.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what happened next. Throughout the ride, interspersed with her ramblings, she had been coughing and snerking (the oh-so-pleasant sound people make when they try to suck the contents of their sinuses back up into their head). It was a gross, gooey sound that Rent just couldn't overcome. Up until this point, at least, she had kept the sick to herself. Suddenly, she grasps the bottom edge of the seat, whispers a quick "Dear Lord, here it comes", turns her head and...
Kersneeze. By assuming the crash position she had failed to have a hand free to cover her face. The snotty projectiles fired out by the sneeze found purchase on the seat where my head rested dangerously close. I tried to shift further away, all the while acting like I wasn't inches away from losing my lunch. For you see, I am incredibly neat and can't handle gross things. Once the milk in the fridge goes 2 days past the expiration date, even if I intellectually know it's probably fine, I refused to touch it. My husband is on permanent old milk duty. I go nowhere near the litter box. I keep some sort of antiseptic on me at all times, and collect cleaning products the way other people collect DVDs. I dug around my purse, desperately trying to find a tissue or something to wipe away the sneeze. Before I could handle it, over, the beast tries her own clean-up method. While mumbling to herself, she wipes away the sneeze...with her bare hand.
She doesn't wipe her hands on a napkin, or a tissue, or even her clothes. She just sits there, surveying the booger pyramids resting in her hand while mumbling about the lizard next door. I am quickly losing the ability to not completely flip out. But then, a possible break. We get to the second to last stop and a large contingent of people exit. There are empty seats all around and surely she will follow train etiquette move to an unoccupied row. But no, she stays firm. I wanted so badly to move myself, but she had trapped me in next to the window. Getting around her was impossible, and when I tried to get her attention for her to stand up so I could move, she mumbled about a lost kazoo and played with her hand boogers some more. I was about to lose it in a fit of sudden, germ-induced claustrophobia, but somehow I convinced to hold on for those last 5 minutes.
But then...it happened. The one thing I never suspected. As the train was pulling into the last stop, it jerked a bit. She screamed out "Woah!" as the train shifted, and went to steady herself on the closest solid object...
She grabbed me...with the hand she had just used to wipe her sneeze off the seat. I couldn't move...I knew what that hand had been and the fact that it had just entered my sphere was too much to handle. I could almost see the plague germs, cackling manically at me as they seeped into my skin.
I was stunned. I don't remember getting off the train or walking home. I faintly recall a final snerk, trailing away in the crowd. Somehow I made it home and washed my hands about 30 times.
It hasn't helped...I think I caught the plague and will probably never feel clean again. If you don't see any more posts from me, it's because I either died of the marta plague, or have gone Lady MacBeth-style wacky and can't stop trying to scrub away the germs.
PS: It is sickness season people - please, please wash your hands and take reasonable precautions. And don't sneeze on someone's head. You don't want to give them a complex.