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People-watching on the F train

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Please forgive the clunkiness of the graphic; I only have MS Paint on this computer. It is, I hope, a useful visual aid to observations that follow.

The F train emptied out a bit at York St, meaning that I got a seat and an opportunity to scrutinise my fellow passengers. The first guy to catch my attention is to my 2 o’clock. He’s beanpole-thin and over 6 foot. He’s grabbed ahold of the two bars that run the length of the carriage and, occasionally, lifts himself up off the floor. He does this just so often that I notice, but not so often as to identify himself as completely  nuts. While I set my peripheral vision the task of watching out for the next pull-up, I look straight ahead. A lady with a studded denim jacket is holding her head as if it might come off.

To her left is seated a chap in his 40s whose hair is tied in an off-white bandana. He has his eyes shut and his feet tap out a rythym that suggests to me he’s listening to rock music. Then, ever so subtly, he raises his right hand and starts doing some kind of tai-chi move. I would have peered more closely, but at this point the beanpole has started another pull-up and my eyes snap back. But this time they focus on a guy who *thinks* he is a Tom Cruise lookalike. He’s got on the reflective Ray Bans and pulls his mouth into a pout. He appears to be eyeing up the midriff of our 6 footer; the exercise has caused his t shirt to untuck.

Chap gets on at Jay St Metrotech and he is small. We’re talking under 5 foot. He stands just far enough away from the fitness nut to avoid direct height comparison. He’s wearing a kippah and has with him an enormous great book – the size, perhaps, of a volume of the Encylopedia Britannica. Leather bound, gilt edges, that kind of thing, and written in Hebrew. So as far as I’m concerned, the guy is reading this backwards and I am entranced.

Naturally I exited the train to my left, avoiding Tom Cruise and his current crush.

*bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify the zeugma used above

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2 thoughts on “People-watching on the F train

  1. Okay, I’ll bite. You know how I love bonus points. I think you’ve set a trap to catch out the unwary and I was nearly ensnared. I suspect it’s a trick question because there are two phrases that are vaguely zeugmalicious.

    Firstly: “I got a seat and an opportunity”.

    Some would call it a zeugma, but isn’t it really a syllepsis? Or perhaps you roll with different definitions in your transatlantic rhetoric these days.

    Secondly: “He does this just so often that I notice, but not so often as to identify himself as completely nuts”.

    You omitted “does not do this” from the second clause and that may be a prozeugma because both parts are governed by the initial verb. I would be sympathetic to the counter-argument that it’s not zeugmatic because the verb is being used in a different (negative) form in the second part.

    So is the answer those two sentences, but really neither? Should I wait by the postbox for my points? By the way, that diagram is a thing of beauty, and I’m really enjoying your short writings too.

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