Every so often, I'll get stuck on his train. Always the same train (F), always the same time of day. (late night) Always the same interminable synthesized melodica medley. I hate this man so very much.
Usually, when musically inclined panhandlers enter your train, you can expect to be serenaded with a one-stop horn and synth arrangement of "New York, New York" or an a capella "Under the Boardwalk" in three-part harmony. In most cases, short, sweet. Ignore it or enjoy it.
But when Mr. Medley (not his real name) joins your commute, you have no idea how fucked you really are. At first it's kind of cute, the way he seamlessly segues between the theme music from The Odd Couple to the theme music from The Addam's Family to "Silent Night." You might even turn down your iPod and crane your neck to see which direction this silly music is coming from. Then you'll go back to business until, several minutes later, something horrible becomes clear: he's still going at it. This realization impresses itself on you very slowly, kind of like waking up from a dream in which you were scampering through a meadow, high-fiving unicorns and munching on butterfly wings, then, as the fog of your dream dissipates and consciousness creeps its way back in, louder and louder, remembering that today is actually your execution day. That's exactly what it feels like when you realize you've traveled three full subway stops and this man is still in your car, pulling a Waco on the F train by powering through the entire back catalog of songs you've always detested for their half-witted catchiness. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "The Theme from The Pink Panther" and all the rest, back to back to back, without interruption. It's like you've been cornered by some unhinged individual who was just fired as Yankee Stadium's Jumbotron Musical Accompanist.
I don't usually think about killing people. However, it would be untrue to say I haven't fantasized about this man's death at my hands. If I were convinced he is just a naive and untalented musician down on his luck, the thought of tearing at his face with my clawed fingers would probably never even cross my mind, but I'm nearly positive he knows exactly what kind of terrible torture he's exacting on all of his hostages. I think he revels in it, and his medley is just a more high-concept version of that ancient Dadaist panhandler technique of "please pay me to stop singing so horribly, y'all!"
I haven't actually tried to physically force Mr. Medley out of the train car yet, though I've imagined this exact scenario, which usually ends with everyone on the train thanking me and asking if I have a MySpace page. I think the only reason I keep my cool is that my contempt for him is less visceral than the enjoyment I experience sharing that contempt with the other passengers on the train. Nothing beats the entertainment value of seeking out someone who has just discovered he is under musical siege, then watching him search the faces of other passengers for shared displeasure, just to reassure himself that he hasn't become a cynical, hostile creep.
Once, as I was nearing the peak of melodica-induced irritation, I witnessed a police officer turn on Mr. Medley and verbally attack him, demanding that he stop playing or he would be ticketed and fined. Mr. Medley immediately complied, and the train grew chilly. A few stops later, the police officer finally exited the train. Once the doors closed behind the officer, Mr. Medley let a few beats of dramatic silence pass and then attacked his weird toy keyboard, playing, "Da da da dum da dum...Charge!" This was received with thunderous, wallet loosening applause from the whole car, myself included. Everyone loves an underdog.