Sunday, December 18, 2005

Rail World

And so now we face another deadline.

A threat of a transit has been hovering over New York for the last few days like a huge storm system.

There were rumblings earlier in the month, but the harsh winds of rhetoric intensified on both sides of the bargaining table as the deadline drew nearer.

Friday was supposed to be the official deadline for a system-wide strike and I was bidding farewell to my co-workers and gym buddies on Thursday as if I were moving to New Zealand. See you tomorrow, unless there's a strike, and then, well...who knows?

But the union held back, pushing the deadline for the whole transit system until Tuesday, or as I like to call it, the day after tomorrow.

If nothing happens tonight, the union will shut down private bus lines in Queens, thus sending a shot over the bow of management while keeping on the right side of the anti-strike laws for municipal workers.

I think I speak for the entire commuting population when I say this sucks. Christmas is one week away, the town is full of people who plan on seeing shows, staying at hotels, and eating at restaurants.

Working for the Man

I barely remember the last transit strike, which was in April 1980. I was in my last year at Hunter College, but I don't think I went to class for the entire 11 days the strike was on. I seem to recall my brother taking a bike to his job in Manhattan for the duration, since tele-commuting was something out of Star Wars back then.

Without a transit system, we're screwed. While I worked out an arrangement with my boss to work from home, a staggering amount of people have no such option and come Tuesday, if this strike happens, they will be in big trouble.

I know the feeling. Three years ago, when we were in the exact same situation, I was working as a consultant (aka "temp") at Goldman Sachs.

There was no way I could do the job from home and if I didn't get to the office, I didn't get paid. I was in such a state, I didn't what the hell to do. All I knew was I had to get to work, but I had no idea how to do it.

That strike was averted at the last minute, but the city had apparently commandeered several ferries from New Jersey to carry workers to the financial district. A New York Post reporter interviewed me on the pier about how I felt about this near-strike while a photographer took my picture.

That was a strange feeling for me, being interviewed, after so many years on the other side of the notepad and I didn't like it all that much. Still I was somewhat disappointed when they failed to run my photo. Yet another reason to hate the Post.

All Ashore Who's Going Ashore

I had been taking a free ferry from the pier at 59th Street to downtown Manhattan. The service had been started after 9/11 to take the pressure off the transit system and each morning I'd sail toward the city and try not to look at that horrible gap in the sky.

That was such a nice way of getting to Manhattan, and as my dad likes to say, the price was right. No screeching brakes, no sudden lurches, pitch black tunnels or unruly mobs of commuters.

It was a gentle ride across the water where you never got jostled and you always got a seat. You could read, sleep, or just look at the city going by and pretend you were sailing down the Amazon. I never missed the subways back then.

But I'll miss them this time. We're planning a big Christmas dinner at our home this year, the first time we've had a Christmas at home since my mother died in 2002.And I know I sound like a spoiled kid, but I want it to be perfect. That's all I ask. We've got the food ordered, the people have all been invited and at least two of them won't be able to get here if we have a strike.

So, yes, I will miss the damn subways. I'll miss the foul smells, lousy service, endless crowds and unintelligble announcements. I'll miss the last minute route changes, the surly staff, the jabbering loonies, and the loudmouths who have to bellow their business like fishmongers even though most subway cars offer a fairly quiet ride.

It's like an abusive relationship. I feel so helpless, knowing the fate of millions rests in the hands of some first class twits. We hate the subways, but we can't live without them. And, to be brutally honest, it's still the best way of getting around the city.

So, people, please. Let's not do this. At least not at Christmas.


DesertPeace said...

Hopefully the city will offer the workers something they can live with and the strike will be averted.... Good luck!!

Rob K said...

thanks, always