Recalling NYC subway attack

After more that 20 years of living in New York City and riding the subway I expected nothing to surprise me - not a mugging, not a half-naked man panhandling, not a mariachi band in full regalia, not 9-year-old acrobats flying through the air, not agents of the Messiah warning of our impending demise, not airless subway cars. What I never expected was to be attacked by a wasp in a subway car - and I'm not talking about a Protestant. I speak of the kind of wasp that flies and stings. 

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I remember it was August a few years back. I awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. My mood was exceptionally bright. I dressed in my summer uniform-khaki trousers and a white button-down shirt of the long-sleeve variety. I walked to the subway station at 96th Street and Central Park West. I bought my usual cup of coffee at the coffee cart, and then descended into the subway system. When the C train arrived I stepped in, found a seat, put on my iPod earphones, took out a Hemingway novel and proceeded to enjoy the commute. I noticed a German family in the car. The mother and one teenage son sitting across from me, the father standing in front of me, and another teenage son sitting next to me. I often wonder what tourists say about us in their native tongues, for I'm no linguist. I imagine they say, "Look at all these civil people - New York is not as crazy as we've been told!" 

Somewhere around the 59th Street station I felt an itch on my left wrist. I ignored it and continued reading Hemingway and listening to Van Morrison. Shortly thereafter the itch turned into a sharp, burning and immediate pain. I quickly looked at my wrist (was the German kid stabbing me? No, he was not.) I then pulled back the cuff of my sleeve and saw what appeared to be a wasp. Now for the first time I realized I was being stung by a wasp - in a subway car. With that final realization, I began swatting it, or, more accurately, beating it with Hemingway's paperback novel. The culprit, after a vicious beating, flew away. At this point the train pulled into the Times Square station and the German tourists fled. I soon began wondering if I should get off the train and rush to an emergency room. But by 14th Street I was still functioning, so I continued on to my office at Bowling Green. At the office, I applied rubbing alcohol to the sting and, on the advice of our concerned and very astute legal secretary, took a Benadryl. 

I survived the attack of the wasp. I wonder, though, about the German tourists. I wonder if they will tell the story of the crazy guy who for no reason at all began to mercilessly beat his left wrist with a Hemingway novel. And, they might say, until then he looked like such a nice, normal middle-aged man on his way to the office. Well, they might also say, we were certainly warned about those New York City subways, weren't we? Yes, we were. 

James Rodgers is a lawyer who lives with his family in Manhattan. He is the author of the novel “Long Night’s End.”