It’s said that the line I ride carries more passengers in a year than the entire mass transit systems of other cities throughout the country. It is a delicate ballet moving than much humanity, not just for the MTA but for every rider who has to navigate the stairwells, the turnstiles, the platforms, the cramped cars and the like. Mostly, it should be straight forward but as anyone who’s endured construction, detours and bypasses, broken technology, minor flooding, sick passengers, track congestion, fires, and so many other events will tell you, that’s the adventure that is negotiating the MTA. It keeps you on your toes, ensuring routine doesn’t make you complacent or take too much for granted the sprawling system.
The real challenge isn’t the MTA itself, as any seasoned rider will tell you, it’s actually your fellow passengers. They are the source of and the cure to all of your frustrations. Seriously, its true. There’s something special about the average New York commuter that allows this whole thing to actually function, complete with their quirks and flaws. And, boy do they have quirks and flaws…
While our valiant hawkers effortlessly weave themselves into the steaming bodies never disrupting their natural flow with a laminer-like precision, there’s some commuters who’s sole purpose during your commute is to make this feel more like class six rapids as they plop themselves in the way. A favorite source of turbulence for them to create is eddies of people in the entrance-ways at the top of stairwells. Their personal cell conversations take prescient over your commute as they stop short at the top of the stairs in order to complete their morning gossip before the signal is lost in the cavernous passages below. Oblivious to the bodies bumping them the attempt to stand their ground despite the onrush of humanity pounding against them.
It’s a self-absorbed nature isn’t relegated to a single class of traveler, it exists among the businessmen, the polo-clad retailers, among the chatty apartment-wives, the post-workout legions and the everyday wage-slaves all trying to pour over the stairs like a human waterfall. The behavior is drearily consistent as it contains a narcosistically loud conversation to ensure you know exactly one-half of the seedy details to their personal lives.
On the off chance they acknowledge you as you press past them making your way down to the turnstiles the glare the shoot you is blistering, as if you should be avoiding them at all costs despite their inappropriate location. In conjunction with their unimpressive facial expressions they might utter a few words in your general direction, sarcastically, of course. It’ll be directed at you just loud enough to be audible but it’ll be said to whom they’re sharing their conversation with so they can simultaneously garner sympathy for the encounter and admonish you publicly for encroaching on their precious space at the top of the steps.
Each footfall as the cramped crowd continues past helps edge them closer to the call falling out of range. Should they finally decide the conversation is complete they’ll abruptly turn into the mass of people without even looking to see who is already occupying that spot in the time-space continuum and ceremoniously bitch once again as if they are the only person trying to make their way to the train.
If it weren’t for the jostling along the way, how would one ever survive the cramped quarters of the subway system day-in-and-day-out? And, if it weren’t for the human obstical course along the way there wouldn’t be nearly enough targets for those extra pushes we all yearn to give before we even hit the platform.