Posted tagged ‘writing on train’

New York City – How Thoughtful

March 25, 2013


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.

New York.

I did not know whether to say please (as in stop) or thank you (for letting me go.)

Subway Blog – An Eye Out For Spiritual Texts on Train

July 9, 2010

Me , rather I, (in the seat there) on NYC Subway Car

On the subway this morning, I move quickly from the side of a guy reading the Bible, not so much because he is reading the Bible—well, a little because of that—but  mainly because I see an open solo seat further down the car.

I realize after I sit down, however, that I am now sitting directly opposite another guy who is swaying back and forth over a copy of the Torah (or at least some seemingly spiritual Hebrew text).  He moves his lips distinctly as he reads, and he reads very very fast.

I’ve already tried to be the Good Samaritan on the train this morning myself, holding the door open as long as I could for two elderly tourists who, having a hard time with their Metrocards, had just barreled through the barred iron gates onto the incredibly muggy platform as the train doors began to close.  But the train doors are programmed against Good Samaritanism and nearly took off my hand before the tourists could stumble in.

As a result, I feel like I’ve already brought too much attention to myself to move one more time.   Still, it’s a bit hard to focus with the Torah guy swaying and reading so—loudly is not the correct word–energetically.

His nose itches; he’s congested; it’s bothering him.  The hand motions dealing with his nostrils are out of sync with the rhythm of his sway, which goes on without interruption, as does his free hand, following of the characters of his text with a stiff, three-fingered point.

I don’t want to watch him so closely; I don’t want to know about his nasal issues.  To be fair, he’s dealing with them discretely enough (as discretely as a swaying, gesticulating, lip-moving, man can) but it is almost impossible not to be aware of him when he is shouting—okay, not shouting—gesticulating so much.

I make myself look up the car.  I see a guy, next to the guy with the Bible, looking at himself with a small hand mirror, and I began to really wonder about (a) the nature of this particular subway car and (b) narcissism when I realize that he truly holds a small rectangular magnifying glass which he is using to read a newspaper article about LeBron James.   (Okay, so just narcissism.)

But I find myself increasingly agitated by the Torah reader.  It has nothing to do with the Torah.  I realize, to my embarrassment, that if someone were reading the Koran opposite me with the same avidity, I would be considerably more concerned.

When the train pulls into the next station, the Torah reader bolts away, and I am amazed at my sudden relief.  How wonderful it is on a Friday morning to have the car taken over by silence, stillness, near emptiness.  I catch the eye of a woman on a far bench, who, for once, smiles back, and I feel so suddenly relaxed that I don’t realize, until the mechanized voice begins and those inexorable doors prepare to close once more, that this is my stop too.

I make the steaming platform just in time.

A long week.