Tag Archives: Subway

On Board #76

A celebrity post today, from the proprietor of this wonderful website, Timmy C. Send your dispatch here.

July 19, 2010, 5 p.m.
MBTA Green Line, B branch, Boston College to Government Center

I saw them crossing Commonwealth Avenue, walking inexorably toward the train stop. The signs were as unmistakable as they were terrifying: sensible cargo shorts, white Capri pants, pastel-hued polos, summery floral prints, and dollar bills clenched tight in fists. These were parents who were heading back to their hotels after Boston College orientation, and not only were they undoubtedly heading all the way to Copley Square, but they were Green Line rookies.

While Boston is technically in a temperate climate zone, there are only ever around 20 days a year that aren’t unbearably hot or bitterly cold. Consequently, when you get to the platform at the Boston College stop, it’s imperative that you get out in front of anyone that’s paying with cash. You see, at the above-ground stops on the B line (and there are 18 of them), you have to enter in the front door of the trolley car and pay there. If you’re a savvy urban mover and an earnest participant in the social contract, you have a Charlie Ticket or a Charlie Card, and you’re in the train in a jiff. If you’re a parent in town for a few days to accompany your kid while she goes through college orientation, you’ve only got two dollar bills, which you will fumble for, put into the machine backwards, and generally hold up the long line of people trying to get into the train behind you. Consequently, it’s imperative that you get in front of these folks and get on the train first.

My parents and I went through BC’s orientation. They tell you a lot of things. One of the nifty things they don’t tell you is that if you can stand a pleasant, 12-minute walk to Cleveland Circle, you can reach two other subway lines that will get you downtown much quicker than the plodding B line. (And make no mistake, these folks are going downtown, at least to the hotels at Copley Square. I can tell.) The walk is much more pleasant if you’re wearing sensible cargo shorts or Capri pants, but much less pleasant if you’re stuck in khaki pants and a long sleeved shirt.

Going inbound, the B line lets passengers off after the intersection of Commonwealth and Chestnut Hill Avenues, but there’s a traffic light that the train often stops at first. I’m a compassionate guy, but I’m not above laughing when half a dozen rooks stand up and hurry toward the door when the trolley stops at the light, only to sheepishly sit back down. Especially when said rooks have crowded in the front of the train, instead of spreading out toward the back. Of course, the fact that half the orientation contingent kiboshes my assumption that they weren’t savvy enough to pick up the C or D lines at Cleveland Circle. Then again, none of them were savvy enough to have Charlie Cards. Good riddance!

On Board #75

Details here, then send ’em in.

June 15, 9:55 a.m.
Q Train – 7th Avenue to Times Square

There’s a baby being changed: orange diaper, pink pants, green blouse. Let’s call her Sally. She’s producing a horrifying sound – like the screeching of the subway brakes disharmonizing with a dying animal.

Mom’s face does not change throughout the dirty process: she does not want to be doing this here, on the subway, but she must. No one gets off to board another car, though they could.

The deed done, she bounces Sally on her lap, then holds her over her left shoulder, patting her back all along. The crying finally stops; a pacifier is the solution. Now that the child has calmed, down the mother cannot take her eyes off Sally. For a few moments, the faintest of smiles crosses her lips.

On Board #74

You too can be a featured On Board contributor. This one comes from Kasia Cannella. Do you have World Cup fever? Yes? Well why aren’t you wearing a cape?

June 17, 6:52 p.m.
2 Train, Nevins St. to Grand Army Plaza

On Board #73

Read, then send.

August 4, 6:36 p.m.
B Train – 42nd Street to 96th Street

Few subway-related struggles seem worse than dealing with a stroller, a friend recently noted. True, I thought, except for handling a child just large enough to make a stroller unreasonable. Here we have a mother and  a stroller. The stroller holds two children, but she pays them no attention, with good reason: her focus is on another child, around six, busily applying a black marker to a subway pole. Mom snatches the marker and gives a lecture in Spanish. Roughly translated:

Mom: Stop that. You need to draw on your paper.

Girl: [Throws yellow paper to the floor. One side is covered in lines and shapes, the other with an advertisement for a Chinese restaurant.] No! No! No!

Mom has had a long day: brow furrowed, eyes locked on points unknown around the car, mouth forming an unwavering horizontal line. She holds a red mesh shopping bag next to her with a baby’s bottle, roll of toilet paper and cell phone sticking out of the top. She checks the phone, quickly.

The girl leans into her mother’s arm.

“Ewwww,” she spouts.

“That’s what perfume smells like,” Mom answers, in English, without a hint of sheepishness.

There is a second stroller in the car that might alleviate some of the crying if it weren’t tucked behind the two children, out of view. A man in a black polo and jeans holds a yellow cage that looks like a see-through rolling suitcase. Inside is a Yorkshire terrier that keeps still, though its open eyes betray that it’s awake. The man folds the extended handle and picks up the cage as he exits the car, the three children never the wiser.

The girl has moved from graffiti to gymnastics. She lays on her back, her head resting awkwardly at a 45 degree angle on her mother’s lap. She sticks her legs straight up, then spreads them like a reverse jumping jack. As a final flourish, she wraps her knees around the horizontal bar and pulls her torso up into a human arch.

“Look, I spit in the train,” the girl says as she, sure enough, spits in the train.

“Don’t do that,” her mother finally snaps, giving her a mild slap on the wrist. “That’s disgusting.”

The girl turns to face an ad for Dallas BBQ. Though she does not comment on the leathery texture of it’s brisket, she does begin reciting the letters she recognizes in the poster, in no particular order.

“That’s not the right order,” Mom says, in her best teaching voice.

The girl stops and recites the alphabet from a to t, then hums an indistinguishable tune. She’s too busy for u, v, w, x, y, and z.

On Board #72

Details here. Send ’em here.

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.

On Board #71

On Board has its first case of syndication, this time at The Awl:

New Yorkers are in a unique anthropological position to observe their fellow citizens divided into two bitter factions, rooting for athletic blood enemies. I chanced upon a meeting of the dueling tribes last night, in the wild, on a packed 7 train from Vernon Jackson Boulevard to Citi Field. This is what I saw.

Read my full account of the ride here. I would have preferred that my author bio read “Reeves Wiedeman was most surprised that no one mocked his Kansas City Royals hat,” but we can’t have it all.

This should be all the more motivation for you to get your On Board submissions in.

On Board #70

Full details here; full accounts to be sent here.

May 13, 9:42 a.m.
B Train – 7th Avenue to Atlantic Avenue

The best dressed man on this train is reading a Metro New York. He’s in a blue and gold and brown striped suit, with a tan base color and is flanked by two older white men, one in a hoodie, the other in a CNN-embroidered parka. Our man’s straw hat is circled by a brown ribbon that goes with his peaked button down and glossy tie; all of which match his shiny brown pocket square, crimped neckward like a pyramid. His pants are loose but not unkempt. He looks like a 70’s don, but his jewelry – a small stud in his left ear and a jangly gold band covered by his right cuff – are understated. He reaches down as if to dust off his already shined wingtips (lustrous chocolate, of course), but instead picks up a briefcase and plastic Duane Reade bag, and departs at Atlantic. Manhattan might need style, but style does not need it.