Catfight: a New York subway scene


So, yesterday I was riding the subway home, during rush hour I would say. I live towards the end of the subway line, so even at rush hour it gets empty enough for there to be empty seats as I near my stop. So I’m sitting on the subway, reading The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (which is really, really fascinating), and trying to breathe normally despite the ridiculous allergies I’m experiencing this week, and I notice a bit of a loud conversation going on on the other side of the subway car.

“I have the right to not listen to your music!” a woman says, fiercely. I get the impression this isn’t the beginning of the interaction between this woman and the woman sitting next to her, who has headphones in and a cell phone open. The woman with the music and cell phone turns to her and says some exclamation with “bitch!” in it. The next thing I know, she’s hitting woman #1 in the face with her cell phone, screaming “Just move over, bitch!” People on the subway get up and move towards them, trying to stop the physical violence. The woman being hit had glasses on, and they fall off. (I don’t think they broke though.) Despite all the people standing around, the fight ensues again, admist many calls of “You bitch!” Then, the two overweight, middle aged women begin slapping at each other’s faces, in sort of a catfighting manner, like clawing at each other. People nearby manage to get it to stop again, and the trains gets to the next stop, the doors opening. The woman with the cell phone gets up and walks off….with a little girl with her, the one who had been sitting next to her. What a great example to set for this child!

The people standing around called the cops and asked the woman remaining if she wanted to file a report. The woman was getting off at the next stop anyhow, and so I don’t think she did. One man asked her why she didn’t just move down. I couldn’t hear the answer, but I sure was wondering. I travel on the subway every day, and I often have to hear loud music or cell phone calls that could very easily be kept to a quiet enough level to be relatively private, but I would never ask someone to turn it down – you just never know when you’re going to get a crazy person.

A disclaimer: no need to be scared of NYC because of my recounting of such a story. I’ve been living here and taking the subway every day for many years, and this is the first time I have myself witnessed physical violence between two passengers (aside from vigorous play-fighting by school-aged boys). I’ve heard storied of it before, and I’ve encountered many crazy people on the subway, but the physical violence is a rare enough occurence, so come on over to the greatest city ever!

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