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Happy 106th Birthday – NYC Subway

October 26th, 2010 · 2 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

When  folks visit our Bridgehampton home, they often ask about the NYC subway sign that hangs over our patio doors.  The answer I give is tailored to who is doing the asking.  I usually tell folks they can get a replica at the MTA website.  Once, I had a friend’s husband who just wouldn’t take that as an answer.

“No…no, this is not a replica.  I believe this is a real NYC subway sign.  Ann, where did you get this?”

To avoid answering any probing questions, I made a mad dash out to the backyard to get the kids. Hey,  I didn’t get the sign illegally,  but I did not want to reveal my “sources.”  Perhaps by  day I practice medicine and by night I dumpster dive.

I grew up in New York City and I am a huge fan of the subway here.  Come on….compare the NYC subway system to its brethren all over the world…

London’s Underground may be the world’s oldest, opening in 1863 – but I can’t take the fake “homeless” people.  Everyone knows only hipster kids sleep in London’s subway.

Paris – Well this was the only subway I actually got a citation in.    You betcha – I got  a ticket on vacation when I was 24 because  I didn’t keep my ticket stub to verify I had paid.  Trust me, you can jump a turnstile in NYC 5o times and not get arrested. No one wants to speak English with you – except the guys who think you are a prostitute from Martinique.  Too much attitude in Paris.  Can everyone take a bath and put on a smile – please!

Washington, DC – Metro – Red line, Green line, Yellow line. Is this  Sesame Street or a subway?   Super clean but if  the NYC subway is college, well DC’s Metro is pre-K.

Cleveland, OH – yes Cleveland has a subway or maybe its a light rail system. It will take you from Shaker Heights to Downtown Cleveland in a jiffy.  Unfortunately, its probably quicker to drive.

Tokyo – I was digging the Tokyo subway system.  Loved the uniformed guys with the white gloves who actually “push” you into the train.  Also liked the fact that the Japanese wanted to speak English with me.  Later, I found out a lot of women were being fondled and sexually harassed on the subway during all that pushing and packing – yuck!   Trust me, the sex you see in the NYC subway is consensual.

Los Angeles – No one uses public transportation in LA…I wasn’t going to be the first.

Boston  T – Good luck getting a train between 1 am and 5 am.

Toronto – Okay..you got me….I really like the Toronto subway system. Its clean, fast and safe.

What do I  love about the NYC subway system? Besides the fact that it has 24 lines, 468 stations and carries over 5.1 million riders a day…the tracks were laid in part by men like my paternal grandfather, who was a migrant laborer from Carriacou, Grenada.  My maternal grandfather also tried to come to NYC to do similar work, but caught TB at Ellis Island and was denied admission to the country.  The NYC subway is the immigrant’s journey and 106 years later it is still carrying men and women full of big hopes and dreams.

I love both public education and the NYC subway for one particularly endearing reason.  They are both great social equalizers. The stockbroker has to ride with the homeless woman.  The kid attending prep school rides with the high school dropout. The elderly ride with the young.

It is post-racial. (Before Obama!)  Blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos all ride for the same fare and its the same dirt, rats and delays for everyone.

It is feminist. Hey, why should some guy offer me his seat just because I am 8 months pregnant and hyperventilating?

It is the cheapest and best travel experience you can get. For $2.25 I can go from Brooklyn to Harlem, zig over to the Bronx and even get to JFK airport.

It is dangerous. Don’t worry, they stopped snatching gold chains in the 80s.  My brother, the transit cop, has begged me to stop taking the subway.  He feels it is a difficult entity to secure and in the event of a terrorist or biological attack…well all bets are off.  In a post 9-11 world, whenever I ride the NYC subway I feel defiant.  Take that Taliban.

It is entertaining. Once I got on a train and this guy got on and started playing his sax.  First softly, but then in a screeching, eardrum piercing way.  Once the doors closed he told us that unless we gave him money he wouldn’t stop playing.  This guy collected a hat full of money in less than 5 minutes.

Happy 106th Birthday to the NYC Subway – a true travel God.  I love you.  See you in the morning.


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