On the Train: Looking Normal Helps

It helps, I think, that I’m a little on the chunky side. Don’t get upset. I know I’m chunky. I’m not upset about it, so you shouldn’t be either. And, honestly, it helps me. I’m not a bad looking guy, dark hair, parted on the left, round face. I’ve been told my face is kind, which is a super nice thing to say to someone, by the way. I look like the less successful older brother of a J. Crew model. I dress like I’m going to or coming from some office job, less than stylish fleece, even less stylish khakis, nearly empty backpack. Presentable, normal. A normal everyday white dude, which is super advantageous to me. People, almost as a rule, don’t remember me, and I try to keep it that way. At my core, I’m a bit on the sick and wicked side, so looking normal helps people believe I’m neither of those things.

It makes the liberation of consumer goods from various personages that much easier. I know, call it what it is, stealing. I like saying liberation. Doesn’t exactly make me feel better or worse about it. I don’t feel, really. I just like saying liberation. It’s an enjoyable word.

I’ve digressed too much, given you too much exposition. It is, afterall, Train Station Thursday and you did come to see how I do what I do. The great thing about the train station, especially the Metro area trains, is that you can go everywhere unmolested and the crowds are tight. It’s beautiful for people like me. I’m guessing there are others, but I imagine I wouldn’t see them just as they wouldn’t see me. There’s no secret club we can all meet at and gloat over stolen trinkets and baubles. Although, a bar called the Den of Thieves would be quite a lovely place to enjoy a drink, don’t you think.

Sorry, there I go again, frittering away your time with unimportant details about clubs that may or may not exist. Wink, wink. Back to the task at hand. Let’s pick a Patsy. Someone on the outskirts. Someone who’s not paying attention, which is almost everyone. Really, no one, not even the well-armed cop standing guard over there, pays attention at the Train Station. People do one of three things: stare at the departure board, stare at the marble floor as they wait (for a train or for their shift to end), or stare at the back of someone’s head as they push each other down a very narrow platform stairwell. Let’s find someone who’s just a tad late, who’s at the back of the clog of people boarding. Someone who, preferably, looks somewhat impatient, and is wearing headphones. Headphones are amazing. You pick.

That woman. Dark hair, short, looks a little pouty, glances at her watch every now and again. Good instincts. She’s too short though, this requires a little more height.

Him. A little better, but if you watch him for a minute, you’ll catch his bird nose as he glances too and fro, scanning the people around him. He’s already paranoid. We need someone impatient, but calm, overly comfortable. 

The bald guy. Yes. Perfect. Headphones. Rises up and down on the balls of his feet trying to see what the hold up is. His hand is tapping his jacket to some music. Looks like a pretty nice guy, actually.

As we walk, we walk with purpose, like we want to board the train. We don’t have tickets, but that doesn’t matter. Metro trains only check them once you’re on board, so we can move freely up and down the steps. The important part is to look like you’re part of the rabble. See how I don’t sidle up creepily. I want to get home just like everyone else here. I’ve had a hard day at work and the kids are waiting. Dinner is not going to make itself, now is it. Walk up behind the target, push in a bit, violate his personal space. He won’t care. Look around. There is no personal space when getting on a train.

Now you have to test our initial assumption. You know what happens when you assume. Wink, wink. I use the back of my hand. Tap his bag just a little. See. He adjusted it a bit and did the quarter turn. He’s paying attention, but he may think his mind is playing tricks on him. He’s still comfortable. This time, push his bag a little harder and drag your hand a bit, like you’re unzippin. I know what you’re thinking. We’re calling attention to ourselves. This is crazy, but you’re wrong. This is exactly what we want.

Now he’ll turn and look at me. If he doesn’t look back, he’s still paying attention, just getting angry. We want him comfortable. There. Doesn’t he have a nice face? Mostly symmetrical, needs a shave, but not in an unattractive way. He’s got the quizzical apologetic look that I’m looking for. His mouth turned on the right hand side, eyebrow raised. This is the great trick. Look him dead in the eyes and put your hands up and make the sorry face. See what I’m doing. Bear my teeth a bit and suck in air. Yes. That’s it. Nicely done. No I’ll just gesture around me and say something along the lines of “Crazy” or “I know, right” while shrugging my shoulders. Keep his gaze for a little too long. 

What we’re looking for is for him to shrug in agreement with us. There. He’s in. We’re a part of his group. Those who endlessly slog back and forth, either because they like their job or they hate their job and the money is too good or just good enough. It doesn’t matter. Now comes the liberation.

Push in close, unzip one pocket. Pick your poison. There’s no time for two. You don’t have to be gentle anymore. He won’t care. He thinks he can trust you. Take one thing, then put it in your pocket. Stay right behind him and go down the steps.

That’s it. He won’t even notice. It doesn’t matter what we got, really. Most of the time, I don’t even look at it, just throw it out when I get to the platform.


On the Train – Where I envision the inner lives of my fellow commuters, completely unbeknownst to them. Every now and then, they might catch me staring a bit longer than makes them comfortable, but I’m just coming up with their backstory (Although I admit that’s about the same amount of creepy).

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