Tag Archives: Mass Transit

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 just  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.

On Board #13

Get your On Board submission in, if you haven’t already.

August 10, 7:25 p.m.
D/R Trains – Herald Square to Union St.

Bags. Bags of all shapes and sizes and degrees of reusability are on display, fittingly, in the Fashion District’s hub. There’s a Hollister bag on the smallish end of the spectrum, but it is the most ornately decorated: brownish paper with a green and blue tropical scene. One man wraps a Timbuktu messenger bag around his legs as if it’s the handlebar on a rather tame roller coaster. He’s talking about health care reform with a woman resting a lime green three-gallon purse on her lap. They’re sitting next to the Asian woman with the Hollister bag, which sits on the floor holding a white plastic bag of its own and a Poland Spring water bottle – no clothes to be seen. She has two more bags in her lap, both purses, both different shades of brown. Outsizing them all is a white plastic bag resting at the feet of a Chinese man. It’s reinforced twice, and holds at least three identical bags stuffed inside.

There are others. A woman boards at Broadway-Lafayette with a white, plastic bag from Filene’s Basement. Two people with backpacks sit across from the Hollister bag. One is a skinny black man, the other a skinnier Asian woman, and both rest the bags in their laps. His is bigger, but she has a second bag. There are bags from Dolce, Louis Vuitton, and Coach (all brown), three small plastic bags, all orange, all held by different people, and one petite purse printed with an oversized Playboy bunny (the logo, not a person).

Indeed, as far as the eye can see, there are only three people without a bag. One 25 year old in a t-shirt and gym shorts (his girlfriend has a purse), an elderly Asian man holding a Chinese language newspaper, and one Hasidic Jew who holds just a hat (his friend has a yellow and blue plastic bag with the words “Appetizing Food” written on it).

The man with the large white bag gets off and bends his knees to lift it, suggesting something else inside. A North Face backpack takes his place. There’s a black Puma bag, striped white. A brown leather briefcase. A turquoise flowered purse. There’s another Hollister bag, this one white and cloth. A large purse in tan and brown, with birds in yellow and night sky blue and aqua and crimson. One woman holds four plastic bags, three green, one white with a smilie face. There’s a black and red and white gym bag.

On the platform waiting for the R train there are more. A man in bright blue scrubs has an oversize Duane Reade bag in his right hand and a black backpack over his left shoulder. Another holds a flimsy bag big enough for a needlepoint kit. A white cloth bag holds a 12x12x12 glass box holding something.

Your narrator has, deceptively, been hiding the biggest bag of all as he boards the R train. It’s black, or reusable grocery-store material, with sparse white text, and could fit five of the item he just bought (an 8×10 Meanderings print to the first correct guess of the bag’s origin in the comments). But even on this train, the bag is not alone: a leopard skin purse, a lime green gym bag, an orange and gold and brown backpack. Messenger bags from Brooklyn Industries and Manhattan Portage and a 23-year old light skinned black man – Yankees cap, tan button down, short sleeve, diamond on his right ear – holding a bright pink bag nearly as bulky as his black back pack. It reads, iconically, “Victoria’s Secret.”

On Board #12

More info here. Keep your submissions coming.

August 18, 9:15 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to 42nd Street

Two teenage males sit in an almost impossibly contorted position, tucked into those cloistered seats on the B and D and F and V and R and N and Q and W trains where no human being can possibly fit his legs in the appropriate slot. But these boys have managed to not only sit but to create a bed, folding their bodies into a 3D jigsaw puzzle. One wears giant sunglasses, a do-rag and checkered vest, all coated red. He rests his head on top of the back of the other boy, wearing a white A-shirt and jeans. His brown baseball cap, adorned with a golden crown sits askew and covers his face as he sleeps, his head resting in the lap of his friend.

It is difficult to tell what is happening here, but your reporter’s mind jumps to this: they are lovers – adoring, young lovers – who unfortunately can’t share that love with those around them. One finds some romantic comfort in thinking they’ve been riding the train all night, perhaps for days, weeks, sitting in this seat from Brighton Beach to the Bronx, and then hopping on the train back. They hold hands subtly under the brown hat, more resting on each other than moving. Their stillness is interrupted only by the undulating roll of the train, and once, by the boy on top. He sits up briefly, wipes his nose, and places his hand back beneath the brown cap, laying his fingers on the other boy’s, and refolding their bodies into one.

On Board #11

Welcome back, after the weekend. Some good things coming up this week, just you wait and see.

Here’s what’s happening below, if you’re new.

August 20, 6:32 p.m.
B Train – 42nd Street to 7th Avenue

A man boards the train at 42nd Street and is, to use an apt phrase, sweating balls. His starched white shirt is unbuttoned all the way, and right now he’s folding his blue and gold regimental tie – once, twice. His hair looks to have been freshly washed in a vat of grease and a grape-sized bead of water barely holds onto his chin. He unzips a small blue gym bag on the floor (the strap says Morgan Stanley) and tosses the tie inside.

He quickly grabs as seat as they open up at 34th Street. He discards his suit jacket in a heap on the seat next to him, and stacks today’s New York Times on his heat-trapping black slacks.  He stands at West 4th, thinking it’s his stop, but only looks around in heat-induced confusion before sitting back down. He probably envies the man in the European soccer jersey and gym shorts, or perhaps the job that allows another rider to wear a golf shirt and light khakis. At the next stop he picks up his bag – the one that reads Morgan Stanley – and wearily departs the air conditioned train.

On Board #10

Jenna dispenses knowledge on social media and other musings daily @jenjantsch. Who knew she could pen a good yarn, too, complete with knee touching, the end of a relationship, and a conversation about The Eagles? Meanderings did, which is why we’re proud to present our second On Board dispatch from beyond the Tri-State.

We’re thinking Friday will be non-NYC subway day from here on out. So get your submissions in for next week, and beyond. We look forward to them.

August 18, 5:30 p.m.

Millbrae BART Train – San Francisco to Downtown Berkeley

I hear a train pulling into the station as I go through the ticket gate. Is it mine? I start to rush and opt for the stairs because I know that everyone avoids walking and this path will be shorter. Not my train. The Fremont train whizzes by me. The wind the train creates as it leaves the station feels good but you know it is stale air from being under ground all day.

There are five people in front of me in line, which is pretty good for 5:30 pm. Two phones, one iPod, one spacing, one reading a paper written in Chinese, and me typing away. “9 car Millbrae train now boarding,” says the recorded voice over the station’s loudspeaker. A train pulls into the station on the other side of the platform. Lights appear in front of me and the wind starts rushing again as my Richmond train pulls up.

We load onto the train in two single file lines all eyes frantically searching for seats. I slide into a row and bump a middle age man’s legs. “Sorry” I say. He responds, “I have big knees don’t worry about it.”

We fill all the seats while at the Montgomery station. We have one city stop still to come before we head to the East Bay, we all know it is going to be a busy train. Embarcadero station fills the train. Three people enter with sunglasses on? A woman behind me just asked someone to not call her ever again and then hung up saying I’ll call you back.

The chatter silences because we all know the tunnel is coming. The pressure increases, so does the temperature, and I pop my ears. The rushing sounds and metal against metal screeching echo as we dive 109 feet below the water. The man with the big knees next to me starts to bob his head as he falls asleep exposing the bald spot on the top of his head. The middle aged man across from me drums his fingers on his metal brief case to the tune playing thru his earphones. A brown haired man in a brown business suite who is standing wipes his forehead – the heat is harder on him. The younger, pencil thing guy standing yawns and changes the tune on his blue mini iPod.

The sound outside changes and we start to see light. The majority of the riders in my car look south towards the Oakland port. The Oakland port is full of huge white towers leaning over the water ready to pick up the next boat’s cargo. The tapping man starts to enjoy his song even more and the tapping gets louder. Someone behind me opens a wrapper to a breakfast bar. The man next to me gets up for his exit, he managed not to sleep through it. The woman who takes his place is larger and takes up more of our bench, we play a shifting game of not trying to touch one another.

The doors open and fresh air reaches us. Only two people get off – we are still full. Two people open their newspapers, Bay Area Business, they must of been giving it away at a stop. The man next to the tapping man shakes his head in disgust at the tapping and then turns to look out the window.

The BART creaks with a slight turn as we go into another tunnel. A 30 something looking bald man turns to the tapping man, “You can’t hear it but we can.” “Oh sorry,” says the tapping man. An older woman turns to the 30 something and says, “Thank you”. Then she turns to the tapping man, “It must be a great tune.” “It’s the Eagles,” he says. 30 something says, “Oh I would be singing it out loud, I restrain, no one wants to hear that.” The tapping man turns his iPhone off.

A Woman in a winter sweater stands to exit the train with the tapping man. She asks him, “Which Eagles song?” “Long Time Gone,” he says as they exit.

The same number of people loads the train as get off, still full. Now approaching 19th street. Another woman sits across from me – she is holding too much stuff and must reorganize before she spills her coffee. An older woman boards the train and as soon as she sits, sighs of relief and mumbles “okay”.

People standing must grip harder – it is much rockier on the way to McArthur. The woman across from me starts to write in her red notebook, the same red as her purse. One rider takes her sunglasses off as we head out of the tunnel. McArthur is a transfer stop, so people begin to shuffle. The doors open more air and lots of exiters. An orange bike of a teen enters and some seem annoyed. The red lady calls her spouse on a Bluetooth phone to say she is ten to fifteen minutes away and then hangs up.

Down the row I see a slumped over woman with her eyes closed – the woman next to her is reading and checking to see if her neighbor is asleep. She looks as if she wants to wake her. The sun disappears again and tunnel noise begins to build. The teen with the bike is looking around at everyone not even pretending to mind his own business.

After we leave Ashby the train has cleared and we are left with open seats. Downtown Berkeley is our next stop. I rise and pardon myself, no knees this time. A nurse looks over my shoulder to see what I am doing. She looks tired, long day. A line is forming at the doors, the train is ready to clear again.

On Board #9

August 15, 2:12 p.m.

2 Train – Bergen St. to Clark St.

Two sets of single mothers sit with their children. One child is a boy, around 10 years old, and may be the most loving 10-year old boy this subway has ever seen. He says something to make his mother laugh – genuinely laugh – a laugh that forces her to turn the other way to avoid spitting in her son’s face. He forces his arm between the triangle formed by her forearm, bicep and torso, a toothless but improbably wide smile on his face. He caresses her arm, then pats her thigh, lightly. She explains something serious to him – one imagines it has to do with homework or his father or why it’s so hot on the subway or girls – and the boy’s eyes tighten, as if he wants nothing more than to understand.

Across the aisle, it’s a mother and grandmother who are in love. Not that the center of their attention, a 6-year old girl, isn’t in similar rapture, of course. She smiles and taps them on the shoulder and holds her mini purse in her lap just like her mother and grandmother clutch there’s. But it’s clear that the women are the ones satisfied, enthralled, in love with the abnormally happy creature they’ve got on their hands.

The project, explained.

On Board #8

Hey, why haven’t you submitted your first On Board dispatch? We’ve already got one from Tim up in Boston, and another surprise guest will be reporting from an undisclosed location later this week (Hint: We’re calling it BARTales).

For now, here’s this:

August 15, 2:40 p.m.

Fulton Ferry Landing to Governor’s Island (and back)

There are many things a ferry has that a subway typically doesn’t. Happy conversations, sunglasses, color, air, and camera flashes (none of these apply to trains traveling after 2 a.m. on weekends). It’s remarkable what a little water, windows that don’t face cement, and a more desirable destination can do for the mood. It’s proof that mass transit is in fact a joyous innovation, a successful integration of people, a pleasure – it’s tranit’s daily raison d’être, shall we say, that is so soul-crushing that only an iPod can seem to deaden it.

Boarding the Governor’s Island ferry, a 6-year old boy in a blistering orange t-shirt must be restrained by his mother – thrice – as he tries to race down the gangway past your reporter. A couple, one bearded, the other sunglassed, are ecstatic to find out the ride is free. A 40-year old woman whose week is no doubt spent in meetings or in the kitchen is all smiles, only disappointed to find there is no roof deck on her mass transit vehicle. A mother explains how a boat floats to her son who stares intently out the window. All depart with ease and smiles. Those with bikes go last. A woman turns around to snap a picture of her mass transit vehicle, her ferry.

At the end of the day, on the 7 p.m. ferry, the last one leaving the island, nearly every seat is full. A woman sleeps on her boyfriend’s shoulder. A father points out a park development on the Brooklyn waterfront.

“It’s going really slowly,” his overly-cognizant 8-year old daughter says.

“Yeah, it is, I’ll gave you that,” Dad responds. “But look over there, they’re getting ready to plant some trees.”

“Whats it gonna look like?”

“It’s gonna be a big big park. It’s gonna be pretty.”

There’s a din of noise, the same one from this morning.

“They’re gonna tear these buildings down here,” another woman says, pointing as the ferry pulls in just short of the Brooklyn Bridge. She looks over and points next at several wedding parties snapping pictures with Manhattan in the background.

Most of the boat stands in unison, but some sit just a little longer, perhaps to let other quicker traveler pass by, perhaps to savor the boat, the water, the smile, the jokes, the calm – for just a bit longer. Soon, they’ll board the subway.