Sunday 24 August 2008

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Subway Satirist

© John Sawyer – August 2008

In the centre of capitalism, the New York Subway system is still publicly owned and operated. The voters continue to reject proposals from Albany for a public private partnership.

From my experience the subway is also pretty convenient and safe. On our way home from a revival of the Broadway Musical: Cabaret, we had a short wait at the interchange at Columbus Circle with other theatre goers and performers who included a tuxedoed double-bass player pushing his single wheeled instrument like a wheelbarrow. We were home watching TV and eating pizza twenty minutes after the final curtain.

New Yorkers are pretty loud, particularly on the subways, but they’re also much more communicative and friendlier than Melbourne travellers.

“Excuse me sir, what’s the best way to Brooklyn Bridge?”

The stockbroker type thought and: “You stay on this train to Times Square and change to a yellow to City Hall then walk east towards the bridge.”

The IT nerd chipped in: “Be careful, not all yellow go to City Hall, just R and W. Are you an Ossie?”

“Yeah. I …”

The tweedy writer or history professor gave his view: “Naah, if he’s a tourist he wants to change at Chambers for a 2 or 3 across to Brooklyn and walk back. It’s a much better view.”

But the stockbroker liked his yellow lines: “Naah, if he wants that, he takes a yellow to Flatbush and walks back from there.”

They argued on loudly: “Why not change for an Orange at Columbus?” “Naah! A Blue line to High Street. You…”

We got off at Columbus and studied the many options on the map and caught a to Brooklyn Heights, found a park bench and looked back across the East River. The walk across the bridge back to Manhattan was pretty spectacular. A couple of locals interrupted their walk home and offered to take our photo with the twin towers in the background. A year later there were no twin towers, but I'm told New Yorkers are still being helpful.

They say that in Melbourne you have to be born on a train line to know where it goes. In New York, you have to actually be born on a subway train to know where it goes.

We did eventually catch a very crowded Blue line past Aqueduct Racetrack to JFX Airport on our way home. Standing room only made worse by the other flyers’ luggage strewn around the floor. No one complained. Instead we stood there jammed together while a stand up comedian stood in the middle of the carriage and delivered his lines. Lines like:

    “Now take my wife. Please…”

You know them.

    "I went to a massage parlour, it was self-service."

People were actually laughing. Just before we all got off he passed the hat around and seemed to get a fair bit of money.

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