Sunday, September 2, 2012

The MTA goes Hi Tech

I feel so sorry for tourists trying to navigate New York's subway system. Weekends are the worst: major and often-secret changes go into effect as work is done on the aging tracks. If you want to go downtown you have to go uptown. Express goes local. Local goes express. The A is the F and then the C. Seamlessly and with no warning. The automated map on the 6 shows the schedule for the 5. The MTA website can be accurate but the situation on the ground in no way resembles the calm coolth of their cybersphere's plan of battle. Often you need a ouija board to decipher changes to the changes and piercingly clairvoyant powers of interpretation to make any sense of the amplified announcements that ricochet off the tiles in the booming stations.

And then there is this guy, at Jay Street Borough Hall, one of the busiest hubs in the city on one of the biggest weekends of the year. The pride of the MTA, he slopped along the platform, leaning frequently for much-needed rest against pillars and stair railings, hair over his ears, beard in a moist, post-lunch tangle, a frequently-addressed coke bottle bulging from a pocket, pants two inches too long and frayed where he stepped on them with every shuffle, belly drooping platformwards above an abused and gasping belt. Holding this inscrutable hand-written sign, which he turned to himself every minute or so, to scrutinize.

He was Information.

The little fascist that rides uninvited on my left shoulder had a fit. Cut your hair! Stand up straight! Shoulders back! Shorten those pants! Wash your face! Fire yourself! Stand up straight!

Straight! it shrieked, again, as we stepped onto the airconditioned F.

I had to give it a cup of sugary tea and a pill when we got home.


  1. Ah! I know this guy. He alternates between NYC and London's Underground system.Or perhaps he has a brother?

  2. He also has a cousin in Customs at Cape Town International Airport.

  3. OK, I'm going to go out on a limb and defend the indefensible. Yeah, the guy shouldn't look like such a shlub. But I'm guessing that behind this guy is a manager who told him to go out and provide information, with no further resources or direction. The sign, at least, was some display of initiative. Also, as to the leaning, it hurts if you have to stand on concrete all day. It hurts your feet, your knees. I've done it so I can speak from experience.

  4. What if he was a homeless person who's picked up bits of MTA clothing here and there and has decided to do some volunteer work? ;-)


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