[Ed. Note: Long time readers of Above the Law will remember Exley, a contestant for ATL Idol during which Lat had the ludicrous idea of letting the readers chose ATL's next editor. Exley's got a new blog called Ying-A-Ling, where she wrote this gem of a story of how she used her Biglaw skills to handle a subway situation that we thought you would like.]
So it’s Tuesday morning and the subways on the yellow line are mysteriously MIA. When an R-train finally arrives, it’s so packed that half the people on the platform give up and wait for the next one. I am about to give up too but at the last second see a tiny sliver of space and squeeze myself in just before the doors close.
Two stops into the crowded ride, I’m still congratulating myself on my urban ninja skills when the guy behind me mutters, “Don’t lean on me.”
I hadn’t been leaning on him, though I certainly could have bumped or nudged into him, given the sway of the subway car and all. But actual leaning was what the man in the full velvet suit on my left was doing to me. I was not leaning.
Two years ago, when I was new to New York, two girls had said the same thing to me on the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square when I had accidentally touched their arms. I’m talking about two young girls, up to my shoulder in height, braces, maybe even pigtails. Nonetheless, I backed away as if they had scorched me with hot irons, and tears might have, you know, sprang to my eyes and s**t.
That was the old me. Today, I am a hardened urban f**king ninja….
I turn around and stare at the guy. He was made of that sort of pale, hardy, fatness that, though it bestowed him with curves, was undeniably masculine, like a rotund marble sculpture. He wore a large t-shirt the color of dog s**t in the spring time and I bet, I just bet, that he watched all the Tomb Raider movies on opening day and doesn’t bring his empty plate to the kitchen after he finishes dinner in front of the TV at his mom’s house.
So I say to this broken but hardly unusual man, “What the F**K are you talking about? I didn’t LEAN on you, you F**KING ASSHOLE.”
In an instant, all eyes in the packed subway car looked up at me and, too embarrassed to stop, I continued to shout a barrage of profanities at the guy who dared accuse me of leaning. Eventually I gained what you might call momentum, which gave me the nerve to look all around the crowded train and stare at each individual passenger straight in the eyes, daring someone, anyone, to challenge me.
“You leaned on me, I felt it,” the guy says with a strange little smile. It made me livid.
“No, I didn’t, you F**KING ASSHOLE!” I holler at the top of my lungs.
“Yes, you did, I felt it.” The fact that he did not raise his voice to match mine only served to further infuriate me.
“NO YOU DIDN’T!” I could not stop shouting.
“Don’t tell me what I felt,” he stipulated quite reasonably.
“Look!” I yelled triumphantly, pointing at the sliver of space between us as I backed away from him as much as possible without melding into the velvet-suited man on my left.
“So?” the guy jeered.
“So HOW could I be leaning on you? LOOK at that!” I gesticulated wildly at the space between us.
The guy was not deterred. “So what! I felt you leaning. I know what I felt.”
“No you don’t, you ASSHOLE,” was my JD-educated reply.
We paused a little as the door opened and some people tumbled out and twice that number squeezed in.
After the door closed, we resumed arguing seamlessly.
He remained adamant that I had leaned on him, repeating, “I know what I felt,” over and over in his soft, almost sing-song, way.
I could not for the life of me understand how he could maintain such calm while my feelings towards him bordered on the homicidal.
“WHY would I lean on you?” I screamed, this time at the subway car ceiling, daring God Himself to contradict me.
He shrugged, “I don’t know, but you did.”
Then, the worst possible thing that could have happened, happened.
“No I didn’t! It’s a… a question of intent,” I stammered.
I gasped in horror the moment those three unfortunate, irretrievable words sallied forth from my very own mouth. My face flushed a bright crimson red. And for the first time in this loud and profane subway encounter, I felt a sense of shame… that I had committed an act of public indecency.
We all know about the beta male lawyer who gets off on bullying busboys and bouncers with stupid law s**t that he learned studying for the bar exam, even though he’s a total p***y at work.
I did not want to be that guy!
I stood frozen in silence, terrified that someone would say, “Oh great, a f**king lawyer!,” and call me out on the d-bag that I was.
And what was even worse was that what I’d said didn’t even make any sense! Everyone was probably snickering to themselves and thinking, “What kind of lawyer is she, her arguments are zany!”
“Whatever, you leaned on me,” the guy whispered triumphantly, sensing my rapid decline.
“Whatever, don’t flatter yourself,” I muttered defeatedly, thoroughly shaken by my own d-baggery.
The rock and sway of the subway car lull us into silence, a silence in which I stew in my own abject failure as a human being until I am seized with the terrifying idea that the subway guy works at my firm. I imagine us walking side by side into the same office building, then standing together in a crowded elevator while he regaled everyone with the story of the angry lawyer that could not even put together a worthwhile defense.