Public Transportation and Why It Frightens Me: A Story

Kyiv Metro train
Photo from

The fluorescent lights cast their discolored radiance inside the metro wagon half-filled with people lost beneath bundles of wool, down and man made materials in the form of scarves, coats, hats and gloves.

Young and old hid behind printed words and electronic music, avoiding the acknowledgement of those around them.

In other words, it seemed like a normal day on the Kyiv Metro system.

Until she came into our wagon.

Coat half-zipped and holding a crumpled water bottle with maybe three gulps of liquid left, she took a seat across from where I stood leaning against the doors that boldly proclaim “No Leaning”. Call me a rebel or just call me tired.

She entered with a young man, maybe early twenties, and a teenage girl. They were grandchildren I presume, and the young man helped her to sit.

But she seemed agitated. Fumbling with her clothes and speaking in louder than normal tones. People began to look.

She clutched her chest and her arm and her chest and her head. Back and forth. Such a commotion.

I had no idea what was happening before my eyes so I simply prayed as I looked on.

She stood, unbalanced, and he caught her. Someone gave a pill for her to take and as she sat again she took it.

More clutching, muttering, moaning, trying to stand.

She rose again and lost her balance, tumbling into the row of people opposite. The young man reached for the intercom and spoke to the conductor as she fell to the floor.

I thought maybe she was having a heart attack. Maybe a seizure. Maybe just a panic attack. I had no way to know because I don’t speak this language or at least, it seems, none of the words they were using.

A few moments later she stood back up, pacing some more, and as we crossed over the river she began to cry and scream loudly. There was no calming her as she clutched the railing and palmed the door to exit.

Finally as the next stop appeared and the doors opened, the young man and girl escorted her off the wagon.

As we pulled away she still seemed to be yelling something as he looked at her clearly frustrated and confused.

A handful of people entered. A young couple sat in the space the older lady had occupied. Silence returned to the wagon and everyone returned to avoidance mode and I was once again reminded why.

Just another day on public transportation, you never know what may happen!


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