The New York subway is a serious matter — the rackety
train, the silent passengers, the occasional scream, the suicidal commuter.
No one speaks except to the person on his immediate right
or left, and only then if they are very old
friends or else married. Avoiding the stranger’s gaze is what
the subway passenger does best. Most sit bolt upright, with
fixed expressions, ready for anything. As a New York City subway
passenger, you are J. Alfred Prufrock — you ”prepare a face
to meet the faces that you meet.” You have to
look as if you’re the one with the meat cleaver.
Paraphrases from the article “Subway Odyssey” by Paul Theroux.