Monday, June 25, 2007

Control Freak

I was riding on the 2 train back home when an elderly mother of somebody asked a fellow passenger if she was on the correct train to 242nd Street. 242nd Street? Yes, I'm meeting my family at a park at 242nd Street, I don't quite remember what the name is, but it's somewhere around 242nd Street.

"Van Cortlandt Park?" chimed in a brotha from nowhere. "You tryin' to go to Van Cortlandt Park?"

Yes! that's the name! exclaimed the elderly mother of somebody in relief. Is this the train to Van Cortlandt Park?

No, I said, as she had looked in my direction. You need to take the 1 train. Take this train back to 96th Street, where you can catch the 1 train.

As other passengers nodded in agreement, the brotha leaped from his seat. "You could always take a bus, there's a bus that goes over in that direction. Here's what you need to do," taking the elderly mother of somebody's arm and leading her to a subway map.

"You can get off at this stop... um, Burke Avenue, Pelham Parkway, NO! 180th Street... there's a bus that will take you straight over to here," pointing at what may or may not have been the 1 train. "You can take the 25, the 26, the 40, oh, what is it? well, you can ask somebody where the bus is when you get downstairs. That bus will take you straight over to the place you tryin' to get to without having to go all the way back to 96th Street, that's dumb. This will save you a lot of time... the 12! That's the bus I'm thinking of. Take the 12 when you get downstairs and it'll take you over to Van Cortlandt Park..."

The elderly mother of somebody looked worried and confused; as worried and/or confused as the other riders were upon listening to the brotha's testimony. Um, is there a stop where I can just cross over and take the train back to 96th Street?

"But why would you wanna do that? There's a crossover at um... 180th Street; as a matter of fact, that's where you can go downstairs and catch the 12, just ask somebody to tell you where it is. Why go all the way back down, that's stupid!"

I don't mind, she deferred as the other riders shook their heads and encouraged her to cross over and take the next train back.

"C'mon, it'll save you a lot of time, all you have to do is just ask somebody. But if you wanna do the stupid thing and take the train all the way back into the city, go ahead, I don't give a fuck what you do," he mumbled as he plopped himself down in another seat. He continued grumbling as the 2 train pulled into East 180th Street and the poor elderly mother of somebody stepped somewhat dazedly off the train. Another elderly mother of somebody called out to here to wait on that track for the train back; perhaps erroneously thinking that since all the trains were running locally, the train in the middle track would open on the northbound side. Neverthless, the poor lady was safely away from the confused directions of the brotha, who continued his griping as the train pulled off.

"That was the dumbest shit I'd ever seen in my life!" he brayed, very satisfied with himself, yet agitated that the woman did not heed his advice. "Can you imagine someone going back all the way to the city when they easily could've take the bus right over to where she wanted to go..."

But that wasn't the right stop you were telling here to get off at, a much younger woman sitting next to him said.

"Listen, I was telling here to catch the bus where I knew she would be able to get it, if she wasn't so stupid she would've been there already. So i didn't know exactly which bus it was, I told her all she had to do was aks somebody..."

That's when I spoke. If she'd listened to you, I said, she would've gotten completely lost. Yeah, the other riders all agreed. You didn't even know what bus she was supposed to take, and when you did somehow get the right bus, you told her the wrong stop!

"What the hell do you mean, I told her the right bus, I told her where to get off, all she had to do if she wasn't so damn stupid was ask somebody where to catch the bus! All she had to do was listen, why didn't she just listen to me??"

Let the woman go the way she wants to go, she's elderly and somebody's mother, she obviously doesn't know her way around here. If she feels safe doing it that way, why should that bother you? There's no reason to get all upset about it...

"I'm not getting upset, I know where she needed to go, she could do whatever the fuck she wanna do!" snapped the brotha. As he continued barking, each of us tuned out in various ways; I picked up my cel and dialed my uncle to have a chat with him. As the other rider s each got off, he made a snarky comment to himself after they stepped off. Finally, with just me and him in the car, he snarled something that sounded like directions to the bus to Van Cortlandt Park, and bailed to the next car before getting off.

Ladies & Gentleman, I give you: Control Freak.

Control Freak comes in many various forms: big, small, man, woman, black, white, dog, cat, whatever. There are four main characteristics that I'm aware of when it comes to Control Freak, and I ususally see them in rapid succession:

Generous and helpful
Confused testimony
Annoyance or anger at rejection
Deflection of criticism and/or denial of blame.


Control Freak is never a pleasant individual to deal with in any form. There are various ways to handle Control Freak, depending on what the circumstances are. In the instance above, the woman handled it as one should; kindly deferring to take another suggestion and leaving as soon as possible. Other common manners of dealing with Control Freak are as I demonstrated, by tuning out the noise. Unfortunately, Control Freak can be aggressive and harder to deal with so easily, so it's always best to be in the company of trusted people, or among a crowd of people in public areas where Control Freak's powers are diluted by scrutiny. And of course, if Control Freak crosses the line, run as quickly as possible to an authority figure, i.e. those cops over there.

Whatever the case may be, be prepared: Control Freak is lurking about, waiting to offer bad advice and compel you to take it. My advice: study a map if you're going somewhere unfamiliar, keep close to somebody who's job is to know what to do, and be prepared. This would be the only time I advocate cellular/IPod behavior as a method of distracting or tuning out Control Freak. But all-in-all, be prepared and be safe >;)

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