Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Show Down Below

I’ve become something of a transit snob lately.

After years of suffering through the roar and the filth of the subways, I decided that riding the express bus is the only way to commute.

Instead being shoved and abused by the crush of humanity for a grueling subterranean trip, I now travel above ground, sit in a comfortable chair and watch the world roll by my window.

It’s more expensive, but I’ve decided that I’m worth it; and, more importantly I’ve grown accustomed to riding to work in relative comfort, while avoiding the subway’s vermin, religious psychos, and panoply of plagues that would make a germ warfare specialist scream.

Riding the bus is civilized, comfortable, and you don’t have to deal with all that railroad riff-raff. I’ve gotten such an attitude that I can easily picture myself wearing a top hat and monocle as I cruise through town. Oh, I say, Dudley, try not to hit too many potholes!

I had a doctor’s appointment on Friday near Union Square, which was only a short distance from my office in lower Manhattan. However, in order to get there I would have to travel by--eww!—subway.

I wasn’t sure if I could do this. The subway is dark and noisy and it’s filled with rats and bedbugs and freaks, oh my!

I descended the steps at the Cortland Street station and tried to blend in with the crowd. I wondered if people would be able to tell that I was slumming and confront me right there on the platform. So you thought you were too good for us, eh?

No one seemed to notice me and as I got on the uptown R train I realized that there’s one thing the subways have that you can’t get on the express bus: entertainment. And I got a full revue on Friday, like the Ed Sullivan Show on wheels.

The show started with the conductor making an ominous announcement over the PA system.
“Ladies and gentleman,” he intone, “there are two groups of people on this train who want your money…”

Really? And who exactly wants my money? Are we talking about aluminum siding salesmen or Jesse James-style bandits with kerchiefs over their faces?

Right Here On Our Stage...

Whoever they were, they’d have to line up behind the IRS and the cable company to get the remaining crumbs of my paycheck.

While the conductor was giving his spiel, a trio of break-dancers entered the car.

“He makes us sound like criminals,” said a young woman who seemed be the group’s leader.
“We don’t care about money, we just want to perform and bridge the gap between cultures. If you want to give us money, fine.”

The group proceeded to put on a spirited, athletic show in this tight little spot right in front of me. They spun around on the floor, popped their limbs in robotic movements, and the young woman finished off with a twirling finale on the pole inches from my head.

I understand the conductor’s concern, but young dancers are the least of my worries when I ride the subway. Aggressive panhandlers, yes, but these people were actually doing something as opposed to just putting their hands out or shaking a cup under my nose.



I threw a dollar into their bucket and as they walked by the conductor announced that Union Square—my stop—was coming up next.

That’s strange, I thought, I could’ve sworn we just left Prince Street, and even I still remember that the next stop is--

“I’m sorry,” the conductor quickly corrected himself. “Eighth Street will be the next stop. My bad.”

“Did you hear him?” the young woman crowed to one of her partners. “He said ‘my bad’!”

“He should pay attention to his job.”

The break-dancers moved on, but the show wasn’t over. The second they exited from one end of the car, a group of older African American men came in through the opposite end and started singing “My Girl.”

I’ve seen their guys before and they’re pretty good, certainly worth another dollar.

This was quite a ride. Break-dancing, Motown singers-- perhaps a ventriloquist or a few animal acts would be coming my way. But my stop came up and I had to get off the train, which was just as well, since I running out of singles.

I got through the doctor’s appointment and grabbed the express bus at 13th Street. It must’ve been the start of the driver’s run because there were no other people on board. I had the entire bus to myself, or at least until the next stop.

I took a seat by the window and resumed my superior attitude. Imaginary top hat and monocle firmly in place, I looked out at the teeming masses as they muddled through the streets. Home, Dudley, and be quick about it!

7 comments:

Bijoux said...

What a hoot this was, Rob. I still remember my first NYC subway ride in 1984. I was visiting my boyfriend-now-spouse who was working at the WTC on his co-op job. He warned me ahead of time, "Don't look at anyone....keep your eyes on the floor!" LOL, I'm not sure what he thought I was going to do!

I've never used the rapid transit in Cleveland and don't plan to. I'm with you.....I think I'm worth a more expensive mode of transport; one that doesn't involve me keeping my money and ID in my bra!

Ron said...

Okay, Rob, this post was freakin' BRILLIANT!!!!

"and started singing “My Girl.”

I’ve seen their guys before and they’re pretty good, certainly worth another dollar.

This was quite a ride. Break-dancing, Motown singers-- perhaps a ventriloquist or a few animal acts would be coming my way. But my stop came up and I had to get off the train, which was just as well, since I running out of singles."

Bwhahahahahahhahaha! You are HILARIOUS, man!!!

The subways here in Philly are so different from the ones in NYC because hardly anyone uses them because they're afraid of getting mugged, raped, or simply feel that the second they go underground, they're going to get attacked by Count Dracula.

Here in Philly, it's BUSES that have all the weirdness and riff-raff. Luckily for me, I usually can walk everywhere, but I never take the bus because I just can't deal with it. If I have to go somewhere far, I will take the subway because I'm usually the ONLY one on it - HA!

GREAT post, buddy!

Have a wonderful week!


Rob K said...

Thanks, Ron. It was so crazy on that train.

I rode the subways once in Philly and, now that you mention it, they did seem pretty deserted. Smart move for you to ride them seeing as nobody else does!

Take care, buddy, and have a great week!

Rob K said...

@Bijoux:

Your boyfriend-now-spouse gave you good advice about keeping your eyes to the ground. You don't want to make eye contact on the New York City subways! And good tip for hiding the ID and money in your bra.

Take care!

Rob K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay at The Depp Effect said...

"Oh, I say, Dudley, try not to hit too many potholes! "

Hahahahahaha!!! That was hilarious!!!

I know exactly what you mean ... except that the buses in London aren't a great deal better than the Tube. Oh, sure, they're not as dark but they're just as dingy. They aren't quite so crowded either, and you don't get the buskers .. Oh, OK, they probably are better!

The entertainment on the subway sounds great! I'm not sure there'd be room for break-dancing on the Tube in London most of the time (in rush hour they'd be lucky if they all managed to cram themselves in the same carriage, and there'd be no room to nudge each other, let alone dance) and while the older guys could still have sung, the bucket wouldn't have got far, not without leaving their hands ... and then they would never have seen it again!

Rob K said...

Hey, Jay! I was in London ages ago and, come to think of it, I didn't see much in the way of entertainment on the Tube.

But I still chose them over the buses. Back then I was a just a natural born subway rat! Take care!