Tag Archives: Mass Transit

On Board #24

July 22, 10:04 a.m.
B train – 7th Avenue to 42nd Street

A young girl, probably 6, is bored. She holds the bar next to her seat in two places, her hands six inches apart. She looks up often at the people standing in the car, before returning her head to rest on her right hand, which she’s curled around the handle bar. Her father, a large man in an orange t-shirt, jeans shorts, and generic sneakers, leans over and says something. She laughs. Next to him is a woman who might be related, also Hispanic, about the same age as the man.

“Are we almost there?” the girl asks. She has begun attempting to climb the pole.

They are visiting from Florida. His father is in the hospital, has been there or a while, but does not know his son is here, in New York. The man and his daughter are going to a museum – the Met? Natural History? – and then will surprise his father at the hospital. The woman appears to be a relative, but not a wife. She spends most of the ride reading from what looks like my Intro to Theology book from high school, and was unaware that the father was sick.

Everyone around them is silent. An older Chinese couple, a large man with his iPod plugged in and his eyes closed, and a 65-year old white man whose look of nothingness suggests he’s worked all his life and is unsure what to do now. Down the car a black man in a dark grey suit holds his face with his right hand posed like a brace flying buttress. The cathedral, his head, seems to be staring at nothing in particular, thinking hard about something very serious. Across from him, an Indian man, tall and hulking, has passed out on his laptop bag.

The man is telling his daughter about the train. About why it might be stuck at the moment (a car ahead), about why we can’t see the streets (we’re underground), and about whether we’re there yet (we’re halfway). They have tickets to Yankee Stadium, expensive ones, for tonight’s game. They’ll go after the museum and the hospital. Grandpa won’t be able to come.

The woman gets off the train at West 4th, saying goodbye to both of them. Finally the girl gets her unspoken wish, moving to the seat by the window that the woman had occupied. She cups her hands like she’s staring through a toy store window, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever is outside – inside the tunnel.

Send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

On Board #23

On Board rolls on. If inspiration strikes, send your stories to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

Sept. 11, 9:45 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to 42nd Street

“This seems like a nice place. Where are we?” he asks.

“We’re right by the park. Over here is Flatbush and it’s completely different,” she responds, pointing on a credit card sized map.

She’s in a black knee length dress. He has a tiny head peaking beneath a plush winter jacket, vaguely resembling that alien from Men in Black with the tiny head.

He speaks clean English with a Russian accent: “I’m just thinking about where I’m going to get breakfast.”

“Oh I should have fed you more. You did say yogurt and eggs.”

On Board #20

You can inform yourself of what’s going on – and how to participate – at this link.

And in honor of the New York Times jackin’ my game, here’s a story about books.

Sept. 2, 9:42 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

Lots of books open today. A middle-aged women reads a paperback with a plug on the back proclaiming “Small Farms Can Pay Big!” There’s a paperback of “Eat to Love,” complete with charts and bar graphs. An unidentified royal blue hardback with no descriptive jacket. A blue hardbound Torah in the hand of an Orthodox Jew – mid-ride he trades it out for a miniature book in brown leather, also in Hebrew. He’s reading aloud, under his breath.

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is in paperback – devoured by a young women who appears on her way to a job at a literary agency. A young man in a lime green button down appears in his way to a tech job while reading “Predictably Irrational.” Ditto for the similarly aged man with the lime green backpack (his shirt is more blueberry) reading “Why E=MC2?” Both are hardcover.

One woman, 30 years old, just started a George R. R. Martin novella. She’s standing, and in the seat next to hear a youmg Asian woman is writing in a GMAT mathematics prep book. An older Latina woman two seats down cradles her book so that only the words “…Small Place” are visible in the title. There’s a guidebook to an indeterminate Asian city written in Chinese. A woman smiles a spontaneous smile as she turns a page of The Corrections (in paperback). A man who must be 6’6″ is halfway through Infinite Jest. A 20-year old from West Africa reads something in French.

And finally, there’s a trade paperback by Dorothy L. (it stands for Leigh) Sayers. The title is unclear, but the reader, a woman in her fifties, is just a dozen pages from finishing what must be her 541st book. At Times Square, she places her bookmark on the last chapter, which she just reached, slides her book into a black and tan purse, and exits until her next ride.

On Board #18

Details here.

August 24, 2009
D Train – 7th Avenue to Atlantic Ave.

D—-, from Pittsburgh, or so her name tag says, works at the Late Show with David Letterman, or so her embroidered black polo shirt suggests. Hopefully she gets paid something, but if nothing else she has the shirt with yellow embroidery to go with her black hair, slacks, socks, shoes, skin, and purse.

You hope she’s looking for a career in front of the camera, but not set on one. She’s got a pretty face, and is gently apologetic when she can’t help a fellow Rider figure out where he needs to go (too humble for the screen, perhaps). She had just finished that night’s taping, and was furiously tapping on a pink Samsung phone – to her boyfriend, most likely. She seems happy and young enough that she hasn’t worn tired of her job as an usher or a greeter or a runner for Mr. Letterman.

Suddenly she sprints out at 34th Street, leaping across the platform to catch the F train. She’s got it.

On Board #16

Confused? An explanation awaits. Send yours to meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

August 25, 2009
B Train, 42nd Street to 96th Street

“Que?” a young father, no older than 24, asks his son, who looks to have popped out of Mom justĀ  a few months ago.

“Ehhhhhhh…ahhhh….ehhhhahhhhahhhh…” is all the boy offers in response. Mom pushes the stroller back and forth, rocking. Dad claps his hands to a vaguely salsaic bit, and finaly the baby turns a cry to a laugh – temporarily. Mom looks unmoved.

The baby is in an all-grey onesie that includes a hoodie. He’s got a brown stuffed animal vaguely resembling a reindeer, and an expired sucker with residue that suggests it was cherry or strawberry. Mom picks the stick off his tray and sticks it in her mouth – meaning it’s either hers or she really loves her baby. She’s in a mauve dress, and for whatever reason – the screaming baby, an argument in Spanish with her husband, a shitty job – she doesn’t smile throughout the ride.

When 50th Street hits, Dad navigates the stroller out. Switching to English, he asks, politely ‘Excuse me’.

On Board #15

An On Board to get you ready for your weekend here. Remember to submit yours.

August 26, 7:48 p.m.
R Train – Times Square to Union Street

There are five people together on the train, all around 30. Three are men: one with gelled hair and a white flowery button-down, another in a polo with his hair turned into a water ski ramp, and a third in a black shirt with the sleeves snapped up above his elbow and jeans torn below the knee. The two women are both dressed in black, one short, the other taller than all the men here, and probably with more muscle to boot.

They converse.

“It’s Kelly O’Leary’s 31st birthday party. It’s the tenth anniversary of her 21st birthday…it’s a pirate theme.”

“I did beer Olympics a few weeks back, somebody was Ireland, another team was France. We had beer pong, flip cup, a case race.”

“Are you gonna dress up? Pirate parties are so fun.”

“I don’t think I have any pirate gear.”

“I’ve got a wedding next weekend. Amy’s got another one.”

“Boy, you signed up for a lot of weddings in this relationship.”

“Yeah…this ones got a lot of activites too.”

“Ah, so you can’t just get in and get out?”

“Nope. It’s gonna be a drunk fest.”

“So, where’s this place you wanna go?”

“There’s a couple of places, we just gotta get down there.”

“There’s this great burger place you gotta try.”

“Have you ever been to Jerome Bettis’s restaurant in Pittsburgh? They’ve got two-way mirrors in the bathroom, so if you’re a guy, you’re standing there and looking out at the dining room.”

“Can they see your face?”

“Nope. It’s awesome.”

At Prince St., they depart.

On Board #14

Details here.

August 13, 6:59 p.m.
N Train – Times Square to Pacific St.

There is suddenly an orchestra of noise, with voices like none this reporter has heard on a subway train. Three pairs of teens, all girls, all, remarkably, wearing black pants, are talking intimately. The pairs don’t appear to know each other. A 30-year old in a royal blue polo talks to his seated wife, who holds her index and middle fingers angled over her mouth in a look that suggests shock, contemplation, boredom and concern all at once. She moves her hand to her left ear where she mindlessly rotates her diamond earring in what is, now, unmistakably boredom. She has not responded to her husband in the five minutes he has been talking.

An Asian mother talks to her two teenage girls. A woman gives her child instructions in velcroing her shoes, while showing her how. A trio of 25-year old women trade stories, all wearing smiles.

As the train approaches Atlantic the wife appears to offer an indecipherable phrase. She sits, and he stands, in silence.