The seating configuration in the train cars that take me to work and home every day abide by the same template: two narrow aisles of paired seats, all facing the front of the car. A couple of sideway seats sit near the back of each car and are reserved for the old and handicapped, but invariably, you’ll find them occupied by someone who is neither hobbled or old. In fact, usually they are quite the opposite.
There is one model of rail car the MTA uses for its light rail routes in which there are 2 pairs of seats at the very front of the car which travel backwards as the train moves forward. What this means is that you have these 4 seats which are facing rows of opposite facing seats. If you’re prone to stage fright or self-consciousness, these seats might be uncomfortable for you. In fact, that describes me exactly and I avoid those seats whenever possible. I don’t relish facing a car full of bored people who are sitting quietly, chuckling, as they cast rash judgments about me.
I’m that paranoid.
My S.O., unlike me, doesn’t appear to suffer from this debilitating form of self-consciousness and gladly nabs those seats when she can.
They do offer the advantage of being slightly “cordoned” off from standing passengers (an annoying byproduct of commuter trains) due to their placement and positioning. Bottom line is, if you can sit in those seats, you don’t have to worry about someone standing in your lap or sticking their annoying ass in your face (literally). Or you won’t be swatted about by that idiot’s monstrous backpack every time he shifts on his feet. Still, the seats suck for socially aversive people like me and the benefits do not outweigh the benefits.
This morning, when the car arrived at the platform, it was already pretty crowded and I was dismayed that the only adjoining seats available were a couple of these “hot seats” that I dread. S.O., unconcerned, headed directly for them. We sat and as I like to do in such a predicament, I sank into my seat and stared zombie-like at the floor, alternating with numbly staring out the window. Anything to avoid looking at people. Most people accomplish this avoidance by fiddling with their smart phone, but since I don’t own a smart phone (by choice), I have to think of other ways to avoid eyes. After a few minutes of this repetitive dance of avoidance, you find a good avoid-people rhythm and the discomfort lessens. Slightly.
A few stops into our commute, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young Hispanic guy enter and sit in the very first row, meaning he was directly opposite us, facing us. I didn’t look him directly for long but noted he was wearing those jeans I see on a lot of immigrant types, mostly Hispanic, but even adorned by some other global contributions that populate this city. The jeans were strangely distressed in repetitive, rehearsed patterns of parallel folds in the denim, as if the jeans had been folded that way for 10 years and the thread had stretched, worn, over time. They were very ugly, cheesy looking jeans and perhaps they were somewhat fashionable in the old world or maybe 20 years ago (if ever) in the States, but now they were just ugly as shit. Their stylistic accomplishment was in announcing that a hard-core fresh off the boat illegal was nearby.
And it occurred to me that you never really describe Hispanic immigrants as “FOB” unlike Asian immigrants. Asian immigrants, especially as embodied by the “Vietnamese boat people” of the 70’s and 80’s, are truly FOB, literally, and figuratively. Fresh off the boat. One of the great derogatory descriptions of Asians who didn’t quite fit into American culture for much of my youth. If an Asian dressed funny, had a shitty hair cut, had bad breath, the trace of an accent, or strange parents…he was an FOB, regardless of whether his trip to these shores involved any sort of marine vessel.
Nope, I couldn’t call this Hispanic dude with terrible out-of-style distressed-beyond-tastefulness jeans an FOB.
I needed a new acronym for Hispanic immigrants from Latin America, or those type of Hispanics that mimicked the bad fashion styles of illegals, and other tropes of Mexican (and south) culture. And it suddenly struck me!
These people are not FOB. The only water they ever cross is too shallow for a boat. Nope, these people are something else. They sneaked over. They are…FOT!
Fresh Outta the Trunk.
I was amused by my own genius and smirked in that chair while 30 or 50 people watched me as the train glided through Los Angeles.