Monday, October 27, 2008

Subways


Today in supervision we were talking about transportation and the lack of public transportation in this town. We were asked what was the best public transportation we had experienced?

I started remembering the subway. In NYC when I first arrived my then boyfriend Mark and I rode the R train from one end to the other: from Queens to Brooklyn, through Manhattan. It was a cheap date, an all day adventure. For me it was thrilling. I got to people watch, Mark and I made up stories about everyone and wandered through the cars up to the front of the train to watch out the window as we traveled through the tunnels and came above ground in Brooklyn. We got out in Brooklyn and wandered around in a strange neighborhood, stopped in a deli had coffee and got back on to go the other direction. For a long time I enjoyed riding the subway. It was challenging, exciting, I never knew what to expect. It was almost always an adventure.

however after awhile living in Brooklyn, working in Manhattan, riding the subway 5 days a week, it became routine. I became one of the people wearing a Walkman, eyes closed or reading a book, tuning out the strangers closing in on me, but at the same time alert to any danger...

At times I was glad to get on a near empty car; no hustling homeless people, plenty of seats, room to stretch out and put my feet up. Other times it was a little scary ~ Not enough people when the crazies were mumbling or yelling and pulling knives to stab at each other or invisible enemies. In the winter after walking for blocks and blocks and then standing for an hour on a freezing subway platform, I was grateful for a crowded car, squeezing in between 2 heavily coated and scarved strangers, nestled in between their warm bodies, I would nap lulled by the swaying of the train, the softness of their shoulders pressing me against the seat.

In the summer the subways were hot and stinky. The hubster referred to the smell as "the warm piss~aire" I remember watching large rats the size of possums lumber around the tracks searching for food. I hated the subway in the summer. People were sweating and I hated touching skin to skin or grabbing the hand holds to find them wet and slimy. UCK. Often the airconditioning would not be working and people would open the windows which was great when the train was moving, but sweltering when the train was stuck and unmoving...

Other subways I have ridden were in Moscow Russia and Tokyo Japan. Both were more efficient than NYC's. Moscow subways were gorgeous. Huge stations with marble walls, carved pillars and beautiful chandeliers boggled my mind and made me feel tiny and insignificant. I think that all architecture in Russia was designed to make people feel small an unimportant though. The subway cars if I remember correctly had cloth covered seats and were clean. No graffiti. Elegant. Safe. Each station was just as lovely as the next. The lights were crystal and frosted glass. The people were silent, somber. Not much talking.

In Tokyo the trains were sleek and modern. Almost always crowded. But also clean and efficient. The stations were sanitized daily. The signs were in English and Japanese and I had no trouble traveling around the city w/ a map by myself. I felt incredibly safe and secure in Japan. Tokyo was so clean and orderly. People were polite. Russia had left me feeling depressed and oppressed, but Japan left me feeling excited and comfortable to explore. I enjoyed riding the trains in Japan. I got used to listening to conversations in languages I didn't understand. It was a shock when I finally returned to the states and realized I could understand what people were saying again! I was so used to tuning out people that it took awhile for me to realize that people were speaking to me...

Here there is no subway. Only a bus system that is neither efficient or convenient for most of the city dwellers. I rode the bus for a while. It wasn't bad. But I had gotten used to a 10 to 12 minute drive to work; when I took the bus it took an hour due to changing down town and having to wait for the cross town bus. So at the first opportunity I went back to driving. I wish in this time of high gas prices and sucky economy that there was public transportation that was worthwhile. I would use it. It would be nice to zone out on the way home and snooze between two warm strangers...

1 comment:

timmy B. said...

I loved the subway in Paris (France, not Kentucky). The most amazing thing about their trains in Paris was that passengers would FLING the doors open before the train had even come to a complete stop. In the U.S. that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. There: they have universal healthcare so no need to sue.