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Riding the subway can be pure Hell. Yet, every day I put my life in the hands of the MTA demons controlling these tin cans on wheels, praying that one of them doesn’t crack under the strain and pull a Pelham 123 on my way to work. Over a year ago, I found the whole idea of a dirty underground metro used by millions every week an absurdity. I held on for dear life as the A train jaunted side to side as it sawed against the rusty tracks at breakneck speed. Touching grimy poles then was unavoidable, as I had not yet developed my metro legs. “Express” and “Local” meant nothing to me, and the garbled commands from overhead put me at further unease. “MTA has a right to search any backpacks, boxes, or packagaes…”Remember: if you see something, say something…” I saw suspicious shit everywhere: shifty-eyed Unabomber-like creatures staring from the opposite end of the car, greasy, unidentified bags with “Have A Nice Day” sliding underneath the seats, and shady hoodlums whose penises were apparently so big that they would take up two seats with their spread legs.

As I mastered the ways of the tube — balancing myself with planted feet, reading or fake sleeping to avoid looking at others, and so on — I began to observe new nuances, and eventually realized that the MTA was created by Lucifer himself.

Among my top favorite instances of metro madness was the ole’ HOLY-SHIT-WE-HAVE-TO-GET-IN-RIGHT-NOW scenario. It begins with a shitload of crazed maniacs, who have been waiting for the train to come for an eternity (Two, maybe five, minutes), and who crowd around on the platform like a pride of hungry lions. This collective crowd of crazies is strong, and if you’re one of the hopeless gazelles trying to get OUT of the subway, your struggle for freedom is futile.

The next and arguably most universally deplored subway experience begins when you think you’re safe and sound inside the car. First, it’s a baby crying. It starts low, then gives way to terrible sobs. You feel bad for the thing, but then you begin to wonder What baby cries like that? And why’s the mother just letting it cry? As you contemplate the responsibilities of motherhood and scheduling a vasectomy later in the week, a homeless man bungles his way in, clearly drunk, and mumbling something about losing his job and not being covered by disability insurance. The crying gets louder and more cats-fighting-in-the-alley-way-like. For some reason, the asshole announcer continues to yell over the speaker “standclearoftheclosingdoorsplease.” What the hell is that? Elvish? An up-and-coming rapper then graces you with his lyrical genius. Your own headphones are broken, and so is your soul. 

By the end of the week, you may feel that you can’t carry on this way much longer. But thankfully, your spirits can always be lifted by someone else’s misfortune. You spot an elderly woman bravely fording her way to the car seconds before the train doors begin to close. You also know that the conductor sees her. However, the conductor is the Devil. In her desperate attempt to board, she locks eyes with you, a last hope in that handsome youth who will come to her rescue. The doors come crushing in on her Scoliosis-ridden back, and you stand stock-still, terrified, and so unwilling to help. She was weak. You are a survivor. 

So is the way of the MTA. After enough time down in the depths and paying out the ass for the smelliest rollercoaster ride of your daily life, somewhere along those dank, dark tracks, you lose your soul, and get a little paler with each passing day. Still, it sure beats the hell out of taking the bus.


Written by Robin Lee Dunlap

March 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm

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