The New York City subway system is awesome.
Awesome (adjective), causing feelings of fear and wonder – Merriam Webster Online.
I love the New York subway. Sure, it can be noisy and crowded and dirty. Subway cleaning crews are as rare as baby pigeons and they seem to keep missing cesspools like this one:
On the other hand, sometimes on the platforms there are musicians – damn good ones! – who improve your day with their music, whether or not you toss them any money. And the stations have a grimy beauty, thanks to many generations of tile art:
When I tell you I’m a writer, I also admit to being a voyeur and a snoop. The subway is a great place to eavesdrop and observe (although it never takes long for input overload to occur). I look at all the people around me – well, one doesn’t look directly, one glances and senses – and I try to figure out who they are, what they care about, what their lives are like. Trains go by, more people framed in the windows, like sideways-advancing filmstrips.
As a novice rider, I took great pride in decoding the station and route map, negotiating the turns and turnstiles and signs — in actually getting where I intended to go. Now that I’ve had some practice, most of my trips are successful, and on brave days I try tricky transfers. Nonetheless, each visit to New York brings at least one time when my target station flashes past, the train doesn’t stop and I realize, oops, I’m on an express train. I get out my subway map app to determine how far out of my way the train is taking me. On the map, white dots show stations where express trains stop.
I have always appreciated the subway, but my current interest falls between preoccupation and obsession. This began on the day I glanced out a train window and saw another train that was at eye level, until suddenly it descended. Or my train ascended. Or both. How many levels are there down here below ground? I wondered, and I still don’t know the answer. When I went to the Transit Museum (yes, I went to the Transit Museum), I asked the bookstore guy if they had any 3D models of the system. He thought that was a cool idea for a future product and passed it along to his boss. In other words, nope, no 3D model.
Use of public infrastructure requires trust and perhaps ignorance. The transit museum exhibits confirmed the engineering brilliance of the system – and showed me the decrepit-looking control box that ran the system until way too recently. When I step into electrical gadgetry that shoots me around underground, I don’t want steampunk involved, thanks.
At the Transit Museum I learned that New York’s millions of buildings and people are suspended above antique cavities that were tunneled long ago, through stone and under water, by methods crude and jury-rigged. Well, I guess if it were going to collapse it would have happened by now.
(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Achievement.)