I thought I had beaten the topic of the Cairo metro to death, that all the humidity, sweat, inexplicable haze, and involuntary contact with strangers had been discussed to its furthest extent. But I was wrong, pathetically wrong, and today I touched, tasted, smelled, and saw the depth of my ignorance.
Though I did not think it was physically possible, metro use has increased due to strikes on other forms of public transportation. Practically, this means the metro cars turn into a more treacherous, sweaty, place than they have been. People and children under 4 feet tall stand a good chance of suffocating should they dare to ride.
This morning, the women’s metro car rolls up, and it is already stuffed to the gills. I can almost see a puff of steam emerge as the doors open and a few fight their way off the train, leaving just under enough space for me. I and a few others shove our way on, our body masses absorbed into a greater entity created out of metro riders like a giant shwarma leg. A woman had to suck in her stomach in order for the door to close, and I thought to myself, “the fate of this entire train just depended upon the extra 3 inches of that woman’s newly concave stomach. Lord help us.”
For the next 6 minutes, I was tossed about like a baby at a potluck. Though I wasn’t holding onto anything, it didn’t matter since it was impossible to move independently of the nest of people I was firmly snuggled into. As a result, I was pushed against my will several times into a woman standing next to the door. I thought she realized I was powerless in the matter, but finally, at the stop where we and 80 percent of the train were exiting, she said, “Why are you pushing me?! I swear I’m getting off!”
Had I the language skills, I wish I could have cooed, “Yes, friend. I am pushing you because I alone out of the countless women here in the car can move of my own free will and I have decided to use this power to pester you, oh chosen one. I am glad you are ignoring the kinetic thread of female bodies behind me that might transfer energy and placed blame directly on me for your discomfort because I am, in fact, completely responsible. I am also malicious and worthy of your hatred.”
The metro doors open at Sadat and “plop!” a mass of women is spurted out onto the platform. Someone hits me in the back, and I’m not sure whether it was on purpose or whether they had temporarily lost control of their arm because of metro fever. As I was ascending the escalator I thought to myself, “I’ve got to blog about this.”