On my first morning back in New York City, I had one of the more intense subway commuting experiences of my ten-plus years riding the MTA. When I got on the train I immediately spied a fat, shirtless homeless man (or perhaps just a very casual, self-confident millionaire) stretched out, unconscious, along one of the long subway benches. (This was one of those older model cars with long, continuous grey benches, instead of the newer ones with the ass-bumps scooped out to suggest the partition of seats.)
As we creaked over the Manhattan Bridge, the train came to a dead stop and just began making loud, squealing noises. Moments later, a second homeless man (or perhaps just an amibitious entrepreneur who wasn't afraid to dirty his hands—and feet, face, neck, scalp, and diaper.) shuffled into the car. He moved past me to the far end of the car, and then literally came crawling back on his hands and knees, screeching for money. (This brings our hobo count to 2.) Then, while one man slept topless and another crawled past me, the doors between our car and the next opened once more, and a North African man (or perhaps West African) burst into the car, holding several AA battery packs fanned out in each hand.
As the battery salesman paced the length of the car, his sales pitch—"the real thing one dollar batteries the real thing one dollar not two dollars one dollar batteries"—mingled with the scratchy pleas of the crawling homeless man and the high-pitched shriek of the subway car's stalled mechanics to create an impenetrable, discordant audio and visual symphony and I grew a little sentimental. "How sweet," I thought. "They're throwing me a homecoming parade."