Train Rides with Rude Strangers

This one-act play was an assignment for my creative writing class that I took my sophomore year of high school, and it remains today to be one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written. 

VIVIAN: a nursing student at Hunter College
SAL: an obnoxious train rider

(VIVIAN boards the train at her stop. Seeing that there are no single seats available, she walks over to the double seat where SAL is sitting.) 

VIVIAN: Excuse me, sir. Is anyone sitting in this seat?

SAL: (yelling because the music from his iPod headphones are blaring loudly, making VIVIAN’s question inaudible.) What?!

VIVIAN: I asked if the seat next to you was open.

SAL: (still unable to hear her) What?!

VIVIAN: (yelling) Can I sit here?

SAL: (taking out his headphones) Oh, you need a seat or something? (Pats the empty seat next to him) Pop a squat! All you had to do was ask, don’t be shy, cutie.

VIVIAN: B-but I did ask…

SAL: Aight, it’s all good. Beat. (He puts his headphones back in and continues to play his music)

(VIVIAN turns the page of one of her school books and SAL’s rap music blasts through his iPod. Disturbed by the music, VIVIAN taps SAL’s shoulder to ask him to turn the volume down.)

VIVIAN: Um, excuse me? (SAL is unable to hear her) Excuse me? (She taps his shoulder multiple times, but he still cannot hear her) Excuse me!

SAL: (taking out his earphones) Sup? You gotta problem, hun?

VIVIAN: Well, could you be so kind as to possibly turn down your music a bit? I’m not a big fan of rap music, and there are other commuters besides you on this train. All I’m asking is that you lower the volume.

SAL: (sarcastic) Oh, my bad, my bad. Sorry my boy Jim Jones isn’t good enough for you. You want me to play some Beethoven for you, granny?
VIVIAN: I-I-I didn’t mean it like that. You can listen to your music, just please at a more reasonable volume.
SAL: (Putting his arm around VIVIAN) Relax, babe, I was just messin’ with you. You got a name?
VIVIAN: (Shrugging SAL’s arm off of her shoulders) Yeah, it’s uh, Vivian Mancini. You?

SAL: The name’s Salvatore Anthony Vincenzo Mastrofrancesco. Beat. The fourth. Beat. Mainly, I go by Sal. (notices VIVIAN’s nursing book on her lap. He grabs the book and examines it.) What’cha readin’ there?

VIVIAN: (Trying to take the book back from SAL) It’s one of the texts I have to read for class. I’d appreciate it if you would just give it back to me.

SAL: So you’re still in school? (Turning the book upside down, throwing it up and down, and turning through the pages rapidly) School’s a big-ass waste of time. Gotta be at least ten million things I’d rather do than go to school. Who needs authority from some lame teacher who doesn’t know what they’re talkin’ about anyway? Taught myself all the useful things I need to know, and I didn’t need someone tellin’ me how to do it, and… (continues to ramble)

VIVIAN: (Still attempting to get her book back) Yes, well, we’ve all felt that way, but I’m in nursing school, and that would be an extremely important textbook that you’re playing with, so if you would please give it back! Beat. 

(SAL continues to twirl the book around. As he holds it upside down, VIVIAN’s notes that had been tucked into a page of the book fall out onto the ground of the train. A man that is walking past stomps on one of the papers, leaving a dirty shoe print on it.)

SAL: Damn! My bad. Here lemme get those for you? (bends over to pick up the papers)

VIVIAN: Will you stop? Just look at what you’ve already done! My notes are probably ruined. Go back to listening to your boy Tim Johnson or whatever you were playing before and don’t fidget with my stuff.

SAL: Relax, baby! You just gotta chill out. And it’s my boy Jim Jones. That’s a name you gotta remember no matter what.

VIVIAN: (Rolls eyes) I’ll be sure to make a mental note to remember that. Beat.

(The train ride continues. VIVIAN reads her book and SAL continues to listen to his iPod at an unreasonably loud level. After a while, SAL begins conversation again.)

SAL: (Taking something out of his pocket) Yo, you want a JF?

VIVIAN: A JF what?


VIVIAN: I got that part, but what’s a JF?

SAL: (Chewing obnoxiously) JF? Juicy Fruit? Like the gum Damn, you need some knowledge. You say your’re a nursing school student and you don’t even know Juicy Fruit or Jim Jones. So what do you do for fun? You a children’s librarian or something?

VIVIAN: I can do without the gum, and no I’m not. I have plenty of fun!

SAL: Okay, okay, chillax, sweetie. It’s all a joke. Don’t get feisty on me now. Let’s just converse. You look like you’re a talker. Where do you go to school, angel?

VIVIAN: I go to CUNY Hunter College. And I’d appreciate it if you would quit calling me stupid pet names!

SAL: (inching closer to her face after each word) Angel. Beat. Baby. Beat. Princess. Beat. Boo.

VIVIAN: (Moving away) Will you know it off please?

SAL: You gotta loosen up, girl. You have no fun.

VIVIAN: (To herself, but loudly enough for SAL to hear) Why is God smiting me? This had to be the only open seat?
SAL: (Putting his headphones back into his ears) You are one boring chick. Beat.
(SAL’s music is playing loudly again, and he begins to sing and dance. VIVIAN looks around the train at the actions surrounding her. The couple in front of her are arguing quite loudly about “last night,” a baby is crying, and old man is complaining of a stomachache and starts dry-heaving, and the little boy behind her throws a toy at her head.)
VIVIAN: (Tapping her foot impatiently and smoothing her hair) We’re almost there…almost…there.
(SAL continues to sing and dance obnoxiously)
VIVIAN: (Tapping SAL’s arm) Sal…could you please quiet down? You’re distracting everyone. Beat. Sal? Can you hear me? You’re embarrassing me yourself! Beat. Sal?! (realizing that he still can’t hear her, she steps on is foot as hard as she can)

SAL: (Braces himself for the pain from his foot being stepped on and removes his earphones) Ow! The hell was that for?! What’s your deal? You can’t just stomp on me like that! Damn, you ever hear of manners?

VIVIAN: Good! Then you’re finally aware. I’m through with tolerating you. Throughout this entire train ride, you have been nothing more than a pain to sit with! First, you blast your terrible rap music and you don’t quiet it. Then you compare me to an old woman and a children’s librarian, which I might add, is extremely insulting! Then you toy with my book and nearly destroy a good ten pages of notes that I need. Then you invade my personal space with your pet names, and now you’er singing and dancing like an idiot to dangerously loud music. Oh, and if I may, you sound TERRIBLE! Any other normal commuter would have been a pleasure to sit with, but I get stuck with you: an insensitive jackass! I’ll bet the only reason why you’re having such a hard time listening to me is because you’re going deaf from having your music too damn loud!

SAL: (Laughing) You done?
VIVIAN: I’m content.
SAL: (Resting his hand on her right thigh) Good, ’cause, well, you’re kinda hot when you get mad.
VIVIAN: (Pushing his hand away) Well, I am by no means attracted to you! So throw in the towel already. And get your hand off my leg.
SAL: I know what your problem is…you’re too uptight. You should blow off class and hit up one of the clubs with me. Y’know, take some shots, have a few drinks, dance, boogie, laugh, have fun.
VIVIAN: Uh, no! And I am not uptight.
SAL: (Laughing, sarcastically) Well, well, well, ain’t that convincing.
VIVIAN: Frankly, I don’t care if you believe me or not. (puts her nursing textbook back into her tote bag)
SAL: You tell everyone that you’re not uptight? You must not have any friends, cause where I come from, nobody likes liars.
VIVIAN: Did I ask for that commentary?
SAL: (In a poorly done proper accent) Oh my dear, I am SO sorry. I did not mean to offend the lovely lady. (reaches out to grab her hand and kiss it)

VIVIAN: (Pulling away from him) Don’t you even think about putting your lips on my hand. In case you’re unaware, you’ve got a thing or two to learn yourself. You are downright incompetent at being a commuter. Why don’t you take a course in train etiquette 101?

SAL: Okay, nerdy spice, don’t hide behind big words. Didn’t we go over the fact that Sal doesn’t go to school or learn crap from anyone?

VIVIAN: Maybe you should consider reading a dictionary, too…

SAL: (Sarcastically) Sorry, boo, I don’t know how to read either. Maybe we could go out one night and you could (making hand motions) enlighten me of the art of reading.

VIVIAN: (Laughing) Sorry, Sal. Strangers on trains aren’t really my style.

SAL: It’s all good babe. I didn’t think so. Beat. (Puts his headphones back into his ears)

(SAL’s music plays at its usual obnoxious volume and VIVIAN attempts to take a five minute nap before arrive at her stop)

SAL: (Making faces and mocking VIVIAN, who is presumably asleep) I’m a nursing student at Hunter College! I’m a children’s librarian! I have no fun! Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Beat. Blah!

VIVIAN: (Eyes opening) I can hear you.

SAL: You must be hearing things in your dreams, sugar, cause I ain’t talking.

(SAL’s music continues to play. A familiar song that VIVIAN recognizes comes on and she sits up.)

VIVIAN: (Listening to SAL’s overly loud music) You like Journey?!

SAL: (Taking out his headphones) Sweetie, I’ve grown up listenin’ to this. You better believe I like Journey.

VIVIAN: Wow! I didin’t know someone like you would have such a redeeming taste in music! Beat. I mean….wow! That’s pretty impressive. What’s your favorite song?

SAL: Easy. “Don’t Stop Believin.'” That’s my anthem, my main jam, if you will.

VIVIAN: No way. That’s my favorite song too! “Stone in Love” is good too, and “Anytime,” oh, and how could I forget “Anyway You Want It?”

SAL: Hey, pretty good! (Putting his arm around her) Y’know, Vivian the Hunter College student nurse children’s librarian, you’re not so bad.

VIVIAN: (Smiling) You either!
(The train pulls up to VIVIAN’s stop, and she collects her tote bag and heads out the doors. As the other passengers get off the train, she talks to SAL for the last time.)
VIVIAN: So…before we part ways, do you want my number or something? I’d love to discuss Journey with you some time when we’re not on the train and I’m not worried about school.

SAL: (Mimicking VIVIAN’s voice) Sorry, Vivian. Strangers on trains aren’t really my style

(The rest of the passengers exit the train at the stop and the doors slide shut. VIVIAN stares at SAL with a dropped jaw and SAL laughs as the train rolls on.)


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