Although I went to high school in an area that was no stranger to heroin, I was largely oblivious to those who used it. Any of the symptoms that I now know as tell tale signs of usage I would chalk up to being tired, or the use of some other less-demonizing narcotic. It was only around tenth grade or so that I heard the term “dirthead” in a heroin-specific identifier. Until then, I never even thought of that drug being in that town or county of Pennsylvania.


I have learned over the years that it’s common nature for some (such as myself) to be oblivious DURING the moment, and see only a skewed version of what’s happening; but in hindsight it can be painfully obvious. It’s something that I closely associate with logic of the black swan theory – a concept I’m intrigued about so much that I loosely wrote a song about it.

At any rate – growing up, I didn’t realize those around me who were on heroin were on it. Living in Philadelphia, on the other hand, I have learned. Though not specific to heroin, there’s the terrible skin, the skeletal frame, the glazed over look. Specific to heroin are the sways/nods – the falling asleep in place (or who knows, maybe I’m wrong now, and these are signs of other things). I’ve seen it on the streets and on my commute, though it’s usually just in a quick passing. Today was different.

My work commute is the 105-minute bookends to my work day. Going to work, this involves me walking from my house to the subway, taking the subway for four stops, walking a few blocks to the train station, taking the train for about an hour, catching a shuttle, and walking into my workplace. Very little happens on the walk to the subway and on the shuttle ride to my building. The excitement, if there is any to be had, is on the subway or the train. This morning was uneventful. A coworker who sat in front of me on the train was slightly younger than me but balding. That was the only observation I had of the morning commute.

Coming home from work I called into a meeting, read and wrote some work emails, and screwed around on Facebook for a second before arriving at 30th Street Station, one stop before mine (Suburban Station). A woman got on and was talking somewhat loudly, especially given that we were in the QuietRide car. As she sat and chatted behind me, I saw a reflection of a disheveled woman whom I wished would shut the hell up.

She continued to seemingly aimlessly talk, though I didn’t make an effort to listen in on what she was actually saying. The train moved on and approached Suburban Station before coming to a stop, as another train had yet to depart the track we were on. For some reason my ears began to focus on what the woman was saying.

She asked what appeared to be the ceiling of the train “Have you seen a blue bag? A duffle bag with straps?” She then looked around at the people in the car. I was very thankful that I was watching her through a reflection. She asked again. No one responded because it made no sense. She just got on one stop ago, then started asking if anyone had seen her bag. She then said “Wifi doesn’t make it to the second floor. You might need to take the elevator to get to it. Do you understand?”

Again, no one replied.

She sat down, and within ten seconds had fallen asleep.

Less than a minute later the train started to finally move, and I heard gasps behind me, and the conductor loudly say “MA’AM! MA’AM!”

She replied “Oh…I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Thank you for waking me up. I didn’t want to be that person that spills all of their prescriptions on the ground.”

What I’m guessing happened was that the jolt of the train moved her, and she dumped the contents of her clear plastic bag all over the floor. Pills everywhere, small 10mg sized pills. The conductor tried to wake her to pick up her contents.

The train stopped. By this point I am standing and watching her pick up her pills and put them back into her baggie (not a prescription bottle). The doors open, and anyone who was closer to her than me nearly sprinted to get off of the train, including the conductor. As I walk up closer to her, I see that her dark sweatpants are salt-stained around her butt, a sure sign of her urinating herself at some point in the day. As I walk by her, she asks people who are still seated, “Is this the last stop?” Being mindful of my steps, I see a pill that I’m sure she will miss because of how far it rolled away from her.

I get off of the train and the conductor, whose shift just ended, is trying to explain what the conductor starting his shift is getting into. I walk up the stairwell I often talk about via social media that homeless people use as a toilet. There’s a fresh pool of urine at the bottom, but my mind is still caught up in what had happened on the train.

Tangentially, I write short pieces about the things I see on my commute. I started using a funny hashtag “#SEPTASPILLS” just for this purpose. While most of what I post on social media relates to the absurd and gross, they are parts of a larger essay I plan on writing eventually, where I plan to start to highlight the positives and interesting elements as well as the absurd. In particular, I am enormously grateful that my commute involves me walking by a polka accordion player, various violinists, a blind tenor with a beautiful voice, and many singers with acoustic guitars. While some performers are more frequent and predictable than others, I always know I’ll see at least three performers during my commute to and from work.

After getting off the train this afternoon, as I walked towards the Broad Street Line City Hall stop, I walked by a guy playing acoustic and singing. He’s newer, in that I’ve only started seeing him in the last couple months on my commute. He’s got a great voice, and plays guitar and sings with passion. Most of the guys who do this perform covers, and so does this one. Today he was playing something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I was thinking to myself, “Oh, well, he’s older, so maybe he’s playing an acoustic version of a 70s or 80s song”. As I walked away from him, repeating the words of the chorus he just sang as I tried to figure out what that heck it was, I saw that he was balding too. By the time I got on to the subway, I realized that the guy was playing a Weezer song; and that the guy was very likely my age.

On my commute to work, a balding coworker is my perceived junior. After a day of work and a somber and depressing happenstance on my commute home, a balding singing guitarist is my perceived senior. I can’t help but think that I’ll see more in this once I’m further removed from the moment of it.



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As I’m working through the process of being better at blogging, I decided to do a 2014 roll up of some gems I posted outside of my blog. Goal for 2015: post IN the blog.

September 2, 2014

Woman on cell phone in train, breaking up with boyfriend. Only person talking. Among many gems being said: “It’s like we’re a thousand miles apart; one here and one in China.” That sounds about right.

She’s kicking him out of the house too. This rules.

Ahh!! And now the division of material goods! Who gets what in the break up?

“Before i met you i didn’t know what stress was. Ever since you i’ve been nothing but stressing and crying every five minutes.”

I really don’t get it. If a girl wants to break up, why should it take this long? If a guy is getting dumped, why don’t you take it and quit trying?

I hate people. Why doesn’t she just talk to herself via facebook posts, like normal people.

She got off Overbrook. Party’s over.

I wonder if they’ll work it out…

As ridiculous as this event was, i have to admit that i am both perplexed and slightly in admiration of those who give so little shits, and can openly dump their loser significant other, and have no qualms talking feelings, sex, living conditions, and problems at full volume with no regard for others, nor their judgments.

April 22, 2014
I’m fairly certain the guy sitting next to me waiting for the train either just wrestled with unbathed junk yard dogs, forgot how to wipe his ass, or just shat himself; or some combination of the three.

May 22, 2014
I don’t think AT&T thought this all the way through.
Duck Boat AT&T

May 30, 2014
These actions, when on their own, are perfectly acceptable; however when they are in concert they make for an awkward interaction:

1: Walking behind a mother walking her child to school.
2: Having chapped lips, and therefore licking them.
3: Realizing your belt is too loose; adjusting your belt’s tightness.

July 18, 2014
My wife’s (maria’s) social media manager (maria) told me that my social media director (maria) and overall social media presence are awful. I promptly fired my social media director (maria) and hired my wife’s social media manager (maria), who i hope to see naked someday. I hope that solved all my problems.

[full disclosure – Maria is my wife]

Maria Colorado


October 1, 2014

Call me elitist, but i don’t think those who leave a film behind on seats should us public transportation.

It’s not an exaggeration either. There is a physical residue left behind. It’s hardened and clumped, and looks like bug droppings.

Also, as some point, they kissed someone through the window. Or just kissed the window. Either way, there are greasy nose, lips, and chin marks left behind.

Septa Print

October 18, 2014
For Maria ‘s social media talk at PAFA today, i told her she should open with: “My artist social media campaigns focus primarily on Friendster, MySpace, and AIM away messages.”

I really hope she remembers to mention site building with free tools like Geocities and Angelfire, as well as communicating with fans on ICQ.

November 18, 2014
Yesterday evening: walked through two unique urine streams in station. This morning: wiping off dead skin flakes from train seat. This evening? I can’t wait to see.

There’s something to be said about being grateful that you only stepped in bodily fluid. I thought i stepped in feces at first, but piss? Ah, the rain just washes it away.

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I honestly can’t tell which is worse: stepping in spilled coffee and having a sticky shoe for the rest of the morning; or stepping in bodily waste that comes off within a few steps.

Septa Stories

These were the quickest examples i could find. There are plenty pools of urine, but it’s the smell that identifies those.

Saw these on the commute home; different vomit and pool of urine. The locations change (to predictable areas), but the frequency of coming across these bodily releases remains constant.

Stories of Septa
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January 6th. Upon boarding the Broad Street Line at Tasker/Morris, I chose a seat that would tell me more about myself than I was prepared to learn that morning.

I felt eyes looking near me, but not at me. The lady sitting in front of me, perpendicularly, kept looking up frightened. Then, from behind me, I started to hear the sobbing, and the words “oh lord, just fuckin kill me.”

At first I thought this was a nutjob whose crazy crying rants I would have to ignore for my duration of the ride. It got much worse.

“You said you fuckin wanted me dead, then fuckin do it. Just fuckin kill me!” By Ellsworth/Federal, I realized she wasn’t trying to talk to her lord, rather she was using his name for dramatic effect. I thought she was on her phone, crying out to some wayward lover who had done her wrong.

“You posted on that facebook group message that you wanted me dead, well just do it!” I refused to turn around. I never did see what she looked like. What I did see were the looks of concern on the other riders’ faces. Although it was not the “oh, this poor girl” looks of concern. It was “oh, poor me, to have to witness this” kind of looks.

Before the next stop, I realized that she was sitting next to the person she was talking to; and it was not a phone exchange. Things got tense when the talking in the crowded car was almost only her sobs and cries to end her life.

We stopped at Lombard/South. A group of people squeezed in, obstructing people’s view of the show. I wondered if I blocked some’s view when I came on. Now I understand the tension I came into.

Context clues. I could tell she pulled out a knife by the way people gasped. “Just fuckin stab my throat! Fuckin do it!” The lady in front of me tried to get off at Lombard/South, but couldn’t make it to the door. People had the look as if they almost wanted to help. No one did. I kept my eyes out the window, occasionally watching reactions in the reflection. No one was recording video on their phones; I found that odd. I also found it odd that I found that odd.

The couple made their way to the door further behind me, their play’s dialogue fading. They got off at Walnut/Locust. The lady in front of me, I think Walnut/Locust was her real destination, but she stayed on until City Hall. No one said anything. We all had some stench of guilt on us for watching while doing/saying nothing. Voyueristic shame. I especially felt detached from the world, as I was thinking of how unnecessary the entire ordeal was; how I can’t understand how one can be so emotional about something so petty, in the grand scheme of life. But I’m not in that moment that she is.

I get off at City Hall, and start walking towards the green stairs to Suburban Station. I walk past two older ladies talking, either unmoved or unaware of what happened in the subway car I was in. Speaking of Christmas, one says to the other, “It was just money in an envelope. That’s all they really want.”

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Frustrated with the commute to work? I recommend working on a holiday and taking public trans while hundreds of drunk assholes are arriving in town to see the mummers. Puts the normal commute woes into perspective.

Oddly enough, i observed no fewer nor greater pools of urine than normal in the train station.

I’m setting the bar lower. My goal: don’t step in human urine, feces, blood, semen, or vomit on my way to/from work – all of which i did many times in 2014.

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