When I left work last night, a couple of minutes early thanks to my co-worker Ralph; I walked quickly through the 15 degree air to the A train on Central Park West. There’s nothing like 15-degree air to help you walk fast. I made it there in record time (4 minutes) and was pumped to be catching the 10:52 to Lefferts Blvd. instead of the 11:05 to Far Rockaway. Saturday nights are the worst night of the week to ride the subway, the wait times are long and the trains are crowded with drunk kids looking for a party, or going out to clubs or wherever it is drunk and stoned kids go nowadays. Factor in the cold weather and the over-abundance of ripe homeless people stretched out wherever they can and it’s not a fun ride.
As I descended the stairs to the 86th Street station I was greeted by a disembodied voice bellowing up from the downtown platform, the one I was headed to.
“WHERE’S MY FUCKING TRAIN? I WANT MY MONEY BACK!”
Oh oh, I thought, trouble on the tracks. It sounded like a white guy’s voice, so it was definitely trouble. I stopped short in front of the turnstiles, monthly Metro Card in hand. Should I stay or should I go? (I love that song, comes in handy all the time.)
There was an older gentleman just inside of the turnstiles, a white man with a grey beard and black Astrakhan hat, and apparently he’d been inquiring of the token clerk where the train was also.
An Astrakhan hat.
“WHERE’S MY FUCKING TRAIN? IT’S BEEN 50 MINUTES! I WANT MY MONEY BACK!” Again, the disembodied voice bellowing from down below.
The token clerk, a frazzled looking middle-aged African-American woman keyed her mike and yelled back:
“SIR, YOU CAN’T GET YOUR MONEY BACK! THE TRAIN’S COMING! THE TRAIN WILL BE COMING!”
Leave it to a token clerk to yell back at a disembodied voice. I don’t envy token clerks, it must be the worst job in the world, definitely high stress, with all the people yelling at you and making demands and spitting ay you all of the time. I remember once there was even a guy going around trying to set token clerks on fire. But if the MTA has its way token clerks will be phased out soon. People in my neighborhood will be shit out of luck, not being able to buy cards from a real live person or having someone to argue with. That happens a lot at the Flushing Ave. Station where I live.
Have a nice day!
I looked at her and asked: “No trains?” But she was no help, she was too unnerved by the disembodied voice; and just gave me a blank stare. Suddenly the uptown train pulled in, and people got off and started heading for the turnstiles. Something automatic in me set into play, I had to swipe my card and get in before I was blocked by the exiting passengers. It’s a war between those getting off and those trying to get in, especially if the train that is discharging is the one you want to get on. I’d run over an old lady if I had to. Well, maybe not an old lady. But anyone else is fair game. Except maybe a pregnant woman.
I swiped my card just as the first person reached the turnstiles; I’d won. Except I wasn’t getting on the uptown train, I had to go downstairs. But maybe I should get on this train, go up to 125th Street and catch the downtown D if the A was out. Better to go downstairs and scope out the situation, I thought. The man in the Astrakhan hat decided to go back downstairs too.
As I started descending the stairs there was a man at the bottom of the stairs, a white man in all black, black coat, pants, big cowboy hat. Was this the bellower? I walked past him and found the platform was packed with people. I listened for an announcement but there was none. I think the PA system at 86th is out, usually when waiting for the train I hear “ladies and gentlemen, the next downtown train is now approaching 86th Street”; but I haven’t herd that in a couple of weeks. I made my way to the edge of the platform and peered down the tunnel. Just then I saw the glint of the light of the approaching train on the curve of the tracks, the light at the end of the tunnel. This was just blind luck, I thought.
The train pulled in, full of drunken kids and homeless people, but I was never so glad to get on the train with the drunk and the smelly.