On Board #72

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May 19, 11:15 p.m.
N Train – Union Square to Atlantic Ave

Four MTA employees, their covers blown by orange and yellow reflectors, are seated at the front end of this train. Two have light blue helmets, two hold gray ones. They sport identical black boots, and each wears multiple layers: two hooded sweatshirts, a camoflauge button-down, a sweater vest over a full length sweater. It’s mid-May and warm out, though apparently not where they’re going. Other uniform requirements: blur gas masks, ear muffs, wristwatches, neon green flashlights, whistles attached by the vest.

They do not sit together. One – squat, Hispanic, middle-aged – rests his right arm on a rail. Two full seats away his partner sits motionless, with a salt and pepper mustache and rimless glasses. Across from him a young black man rubs his eyes, and the last of the quartet stands by the door. Their facial expressions remain remarkably uniform: stoic, unsmiling, bemused, looking forward to nothing tonight.

Several passengers depart and the mustached man stretches his legs, off into the night.

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