I took a seat on the subway, this morning, across from an older couple who were clearly hard-of-hearing.


“THIS HAS BEEN MY ANNUS HORRIBILIS,” shouted the man.  “FIRST, THAT FALL ON THE STEPS, THEN BILL’S DEATH, AND NOW THIS.”


“BAD THINGS ALWAYS COME IN THREES, DEAR,” shouted his wife. She patted his hand.


“NO THEY DON’T, EDITH,” shouted her husband. “WHY WOULD THEY?”


“I AGREE,” shouted the old guy beside me. “FOR A WHILE, THERE, MINE WERE COMING IN FIVES AND SIXES AND, ONCE, THEY EVEN CAME IN EIGHTS. MOSTLY, THOUGH—AT LEAST FOR ME—THEY COME IN ONES OR TWOS.”


“WHAT?” shouted the husband.


“ONES OR TWOS,” shouted the man. “MINE MOSTLY COME IN ONES OR TWOS.”


“WHAT DID HE SAY?” shouted Edith


“SOMETHING ABOUT SHOES. I THINK HE WANTS MY SHOES.”


“SMALL WONDER,” shouted Edith. “IMAGINE WALKING AROUND IN OPEN SANDALS WITH FEET LIKE THAT. HAS THE MAN NO SOCKS?”


She shouted at the guy, “WHAT SIZE DO YOU WEAR?”


He cupped one ear. “WHAT?”


She pointed at his feet. “WHAT SIZE SHOES DO YOU WEAR?”


“TWELVE. WHY?”


“FRANK’S A TEN. SORRY.”


I looked around. Everyone but the young woman across the way was stifling a laugh. She’s tried to but failed, was now coughing uncontrollably and rummaging frantically in her purse. The woman beside her handed her a tissue. We were slowing for Bloor Station. Many were already crowding the doors.


“COME ON, FRANK,” shouted Edith.


I watched as they helped one another up and, with a single “EXCUSE ME” from Edith, cleared a path to the front of the line. The old guy beside me was not far behind them. I remained seated till the train stopped. My ears needed a break.


As we were making our way along the crowded subway platform, I watched as the old guy gradually overtook and joined Edith and Frank. The three of them were laughing and, even from a distance, I could see they were talking normally, now, no longer shouting.

bad things