Sunday, March 06, 2011
Riding the Rails
I got some high praise the other day when I held the elevator door for a guy in the lobby of my office building.
“You’re a great man,” he said as he stepped aboard.
I wouldn’t go that far, but I wasn’t going to argue. You don't get called great every day of the week. Or least I don't.
The elevator service was anything but great, though, as the thing just sat on the ground floor making obnoxious beeping noises. It gets annoyed if you mess with the doors.
“Oh, come on,” my fellow passenger said in mock exasperation. “I’m a Southern gentleman, but I’ve got my limits.”
The elevator got the hint, promptly closing the doors and starting to move. I made sure to wish my travel companion a good day as I got off. I had a rotten commute that morning and I appreciated a little positive energy.
It had been freezing cold, the trains were all fouled up, and some loser insisted upon bullying his way on to the R train like he was racing to perform open heart surgery at Beth Israel. Everybody else on the platform were just obstacles.
I managed to get a seat on this sardine can, stuck my nose in a book and forget all about this cad. But the local morphed into an express and when we got to 36th Street, the blowhard pushed his way off the train in the same manner in which he had stormed on. However, someone didn’t take kindly to this and the two had a testy exchange on the platform.
“Fuck you,” the bum rusher said, stretching the limits of his vocabulary.
The two verbal combatants were apparently from the same country because they switched to another language—possibly Arabic—and I assume they swapped the F-bomb in their mother tongue as well. It’s great to be bilingual.
Transportation has been much on my mind lately. A few weeks ago I had gotten goat-roped into participating in a travel survey by some research outfit.
"And then I took out my Metro Card..."
I was supposed to record my travel experiences for one day--trains, buses, tug boats, walking, pretty much everything but elevators. I’m not sure what the point of this thing was but I went along, making note of what time I left my house and when I arrived at work.
I also had to record my walk to church at lunchtime, my ride home, and the walk to the grocery store near my home train station. It felt weird tracking all this mundane activity and I was tempted to throw in a motorcycle jump over the East River to spice things up a little.
I had to load all of this stuff onto a website, which proved to be quite difficult for some reason. Maybe I should have watched that tutorial before I started filing.
I kept backing up, deleting stuff, and typing it in again. I was really sorry I had agreed to be part of this survey. I’m a northern gentleman, but I have my limits. I finally managed to finish the survey without throwing my computer out the window and took the subway home.
Friday came around and as I rode to work I heard the motorman of my train greet one his colleagues who was at the helm of the D train across the platform.
“Another day in paradise,” he said with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
Sarcasm runs pretty heavily in the subways most days, but there are some bright spots. As I sat in first seat of the first car a young man brought his little boy up to the front window so the kid could watch the train heading down the tracks.
The boy was so excited I was going to peer over his shoulder to see if I’ve been missing something.
When I was this boy’s age, my brother told me about how cool it was riding in the front car and looking through the big window. I was so thrilled that I imagined something like the screen on the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Reality was a bit of a letdown.
I smiled and encouraged the boy to keep looking at the window. He and his father got off at Rector Street and I was grateful for getting a little bit of paradise before going to work.