What was this guy up to? Should I have call the cops?

A tale of strange stuff on the NYC subway (#11,293,675)

Ok, So Mrs Z and I are riding the C train home on Sunday night. It’s about 9:45. This guy gets on at either Canal or B’Way Nassau. He is wearing some dark pants, a bright blue jacket and a bright orange vest that ‘kind of’ looks like a NYC Subway worker / Construction worker vest except that it’s not one of those. I say that because it was not reflective.

Anyway he plops down his camo knapsack on the floor and a black plastic bag like you might get from a grocery store. Out of the grocery bag he pulls out some matches. You know those boxes that have like 100 packs of matches? One of those.

He then takes out some little finger nail type siccors and starts to cut the matches out of the books and is catching them in the bag. He leaves three matches in each book. The same three matches in each and every book. Then he would snip a corner from that book of matches and then throw it in a seperate bag and do another book. I watched him do about 20 books before he got off. He noticed Mrs. Z watching him and he stopped and got the train at the next stop (Hoyt). As he got off he gave me a weird look. Hard to describe but I was feeling menaced so I didn’t like the look.

He was definetly preparing the matchbooks for something and I guess he could just be not littering and not making a huge bundle of matches to explode something.

Any ideas what he was doing?

My only non-crime-related guess would be that he’s prepping the 3-match matchbooks for some kind of a Halloween party thing. Like maybe some odd kind of party favor/party game involving 3 matches in a book, or “you have to get through this haunted house using only the light available, but you get to have this matchbook with 3 matches for the really dark times - use them wisely,” or something. And then maybe he looked at you funny because he didn’t like being stared at, or maybe he worried about what you were thinking and it didn’t occur to him that someone else might be checking out what he’s doing.

I can’t see why separate matches would be any more dangerous than ones bound into books, especially since you could get those wooden matches anyway.

Sorry, confusing to me. I hope it was for a more benign purpose.

match heads are often used in pipe bombs. Google match head and bomb, it’s fairly common. A kid in my city managed to lose most of his thigh and several fingers from one such device. Was hoe cutting the whole match out, or just the heads?

The whole match.
That was confusing me for a bit. I knew putting all the heads together could get you something nasty but not the whole match. But he was being pretty careful to get them in the bag. Several misssed and he picked them up. However when he left there were about a half dozen left on the floor.
I didn’t notice that he was leaving 3 matches, that was Mrs. Z.

I am really impressed with the Ferret’s answer, Halloween party favors.

Any decent person would pick up the matches rather than littering.

And I can’t see a terrorist preparing his materiel on a subway.

The fact that he stopped and got off when he noticed you watching him seems odd. Did he look a little “off”? I’m thinking some kind of obsesive-compulsive type behavior maybe?

Sure, call the cops- but NOT 911. The non-emergency number. You’re not an expert- they supposedly are. Then you no longer have to worry, right?

Sounds like bombage to me. I also knew a guy who blew his fingers and thigh apart doing a pipe bomb this way. Brilliant guy that he was, he was walking to the detonation site with a lit cig and the bomb in the same hand. Duh! Boom!