As many of you know, I am soon moving from New York City . I have worried I will miss it. Just yesterday, I was feeling especially forlorn, after dinner with a wonderful friend.
But, oh, what a thoughtful City she is.
I trudged down the steps of the subway station at 59th Street, Columbus Circle.
It is a cold, grey station; last night, there were flaps of yellow tapes blocking off various lines–weekend construction.
The remaining lines all basically parallel each other. Still, their platforms are at a criss-cross in that station. If you are a train perfectionist–make that an impatient idiot–you stand at a stairwell in the vague middle of everything so that when you hear a rumble, you can hightail it down (or up) to dash through some set of grey smeared doors just before they close.
This is a rather dangerous game: you may end up missing both the train you are running towards as well as the one you were originally waiting for. Still, to a true New Yorker, anything is better than patience. (In short, I stood on the stairwell with several other toe-tappers.)
Then came the Number 1. Fine. As I dashed/slipped inside, I noticed (vaguely) the conductor making some convoluted announcement about how this train would only go as far as 14th Street–normally, it goes all the way to the bottom of the Island, where I live–and that we should change at 42nd.
The 1 is a local, meaning that the trip to 42nd was slow; stops every few blocks. The conductor gabbled on about changing, and as we began to pull into 42nd Street, there was, amazingly, a 2 Express also pulling in across the platform.
Wow! Most of the train stood up. Most of the train, in fact, leaned towards the glass doors, ready to run. (We know from experience that we’ll never make it anywhere if we just walk calmly. )
And then, although our train stopped for a palpable instant or more, it suddenly began to lurch again, to stumble further and further into the station.
Shit, the main next to me (pale, unshaven,) cursed. The other train’s doors were open now.
As our train stopped (finally), sighed (leisurely),–the doors still not open–the doors of the train across slid closed.
The man was really cursing as our conductor began to explain that this train/ our train would now be making express stops only to 14th Street, and that if anyone wanted any local stops, they should transfer to the 2 (the express) across the platform. (Of course, the 2 across the platform had already closed its doors.)
At last, ours opened. People projectiled out.
But it was too late. (Yes, the 2 just sat there a minute more. No, it did not open its doors.)
I for one went back to my seat. If we were going express anyway, we could probably catch up with the 2, I thought.
Except that we sat there until a couple of other 2s went by.
Fine. Except when we got to 14th Street, I stepped out to a platform occupied by a sizeable rat. (My car had ended up next to the garbage.)
I jumped back into the train, nearly knocking into the couple behind.
“There’s a rat,” I said breathlessly, and then, with amazing presence of mind, “you go first.”
Thanks God, the Express (running now on the Local track) was also in the station. The couple, determined, scurried around the rat pillars and into it, with me glomming just behind. .
As I sat down on the new train,I wanted to tell everyone around me about the rat, but they were all tuning out (into iPods or studied disinterest), so I made myself hold in all the excitement. Only now through the end doors of the car, came a scrawny and somehow flattened middle=aged woman in a short leopard coat over jeans that showed her to be so knock-kneed that her shins looked like the prongs of a dowser’s fork.
I winced before she even started singing. She did not have a tuneful voice; the song, moreover, revolved around the line “they can’t take away my dignity.” (I could not help thinking that she herself was giving that away with two hands. I knew that was unkind and also dug into my purse for some money.)
And then, at last, my stop. I stepped gingerly onto the platform that held no rat but a splat of fresh vomit.
I did not know whether to say please (as in stop) or thank you (for letting me go.)