Tag Archives: Mass Transportation

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 #17

August 26, 8:05 p.m.
R Train – Union Street

Dear Reader! There are others out there, just like us! After a friend departed at Atlantic Ave, I noticed a woman frantically scribbling in a notebook, briefly but infrequently looking up and in my direction. She flipped her spiral notebook over and wrote on the back of each page. She was using a blue pen. She had two black rehab boots on.

As I stood to get off the train, she looked up again, pulling her notebook back towards her at a higher angle. I stood by the doors, waiting for them to open, and squeezed a peak. “I have a wedding this weekend.”

We – dear reader! – my friend and I, were discussing a wedding I would be attending that weekend! Is there an On Board scribe out there afraid to go public? Is someone else pursuing the project independently? On Board demands to know…meanderingstalk@gmail.com.

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.

On Board #13

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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.”