Friday, August 8, 2008

The Six Crazy People You Meet in New York

I saw a totally new brand of crazy person today while I was getting lunch at Subway. This dude looked like your average beefy, sporty guy (although, upon closer inspection later, his eyes were just... not right) eating a sub. When he finished, he got up, clapped, and yelled "YOU GUYS, THAT WAS THE BEST FREAKIN' SUB I HAVE EVER HAD! BLESS YOU!" and then started to kind of squat-stumble around. It was a beautiful moment for me, because it's not every day you see a new category of crackpot in New York, the city in which you can be reasonably sure that no matter where you are you are on the same block as someone who is unbalanced. I was so moved that I was inspired to catalogue, like Darwin before me, the breeds of batshit crazies on this island.

The Bullseye
The Bullseye lets you know, by way of their personal hygiene, clothing choices, or posture, that they are out-and-out nuts. Think of this as a gift: even though their lazy eyes, missing teeth, or underpants-with-cape ensemble might be off-putting, at least you know to steer clear.

The Self-Talker
You can spot these gentle giants pretty easily, as they are whispering, mumbling, or yelling to no one in particular, often accompanied by emphatic hand gestures. Most of the time they are Bullseyes, but sometimes they are Bluetooth users, so check for an earpiece. Danger level is low; the self-talker is busy having a conversation with someone invisible. They won’t notice you unless you try to get in on the conversation (THIS IS NOT ADVISED). The self-talker is generally found outdoors, but enjoys riding the New York City Transit system, as do all crazy people.

The Provocateur
The Provocateur is a Self-Talker gone bad—he or she hones in on a victim and whispers, mumbles, or yells provocative insults and threats. Sample dialogue:
Provocateur: YOU DON’T KNOW ME.
Victim: [Shifts uncomfortably].
Victim: [Changes seats].
The best course of action when faced with a Provocateur is to be a pussy and change cars. Be warned: the truly crazy may follow you.

The Religious Fanatic
I’m not trying to be religious-ist here. There are plenty of religious fanatics that are not crazy (although, if you define crazy as ‘talking very loudly to no one in particular on the subway’—see the Self-Talker—a lot of train preachers qualify). I am talking about people like the obese woman who chased my sister out of a Burritoville, yelling “Don’t run from Jesus!”

The Slow Burner
You can be sitting this next to this person on the subway for twenty minutes with nary a peep, and then suddenly, in a Tourette’s-like outburst, they scream something at the top of their lungs. The scariest slow burners are the ones that are otherwise nondescript. When faced with a slow burner, often the best course of action is to pretend you don’t notice them. Remain still and turn up the volume on your iPod. Sudden movements could direct the stream of obscenities toward you.

The Jester
I have only seen one of these personally—a man who stood in the middle of my subway station every day shouting “Goin’ to work! Go, go, goin’ to work!” It was pretty awesome. If you ever see a Jester, you should count yourself lucky—crazy never looked this good.

So the new guy, I'm not sure what to call his tribe. Maybe the Footlong Fanatic? The Barely Visible Head Dent? The Jolly Juicer? Suggestions welcome.


  1. The Slow-Burner sounds a bit too much like the guy on the Canadian Greyhound bus who decapitated the dude sitting next to him after hours of acting totally normal.

    And one of those religious people actually started in on me while I was exercising in the park!

  2. One of the funniest posts I've read in AGES.... you really nailed it!!

    Why ARE all the self talkers "gentle giants"? Seriously, they all could be stand-ins for Grizzly Adams!


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