Underground reading

My worst fears were realized on the subway this morning. I forgot to bring something to read. I’m always riven with anxiety that the train will come to a halt between stations and sit there for an hour so I usually pack in my knapsack that day’s newspaper, a section or two from the Sunday New York Times and a recent copy of the London Review of Books, just in case of such a catastrophe.

Fortunately, there were plenty of copies scattered about of a giveaway tabloid called 24 Hours Toronto, so I picked one up. As I scanned the pages, I wondered where my eyes had previously been. Here was a series of articles, most no longer than than the time it takes to breathe in and out once, on topics heretofore unknown and previously unrevealed.

First to catch my eye, as you might imagine, was a page three topless photo of supermodel Lydia Hearst breastfeeding two babies at once while dining in a posh restaurant. Then a piece on how Dolce & Gabbana is launching a new line of headdresses for the Middle East. A headline on page 5 caught my eye: Dumbest Country Alive. (Hint: they just claimed to have exploded an H-bomb.) Then a tear-jerker on how a six-year-old saves up his allowance to take his mommy out to dinner. Other grabbers included a brief on a donut that costs $1,000 for a dozen, a $200 bra that offers both exercise and support, two people I never heard of who are having a baby, how biscuits are stealing the spotlight from cupcakes, and other delights that I can no longer remember they were so gripping.

Only the one-page sports section seemed normal with scores, injuries and all-star hijinks. Three of the last five pages contained more classified ads than I’ve seen anywhere since 1988. Some of them were about jobs for which readers might first need to take an online course in order to qualify. Others were for fortune-tellers and astrologers, one of whom specialized in removing black magic jadoo, voodoo and obeya in three days with lifelong protection.

As for me, my lifelong protection will be to always bring my usual clutch of reading material. To the rest of you I say: don’t toss your papers. A small child might mistake them for something worthwhile.

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