Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mass Transit! Huzzah!

Sobering subway rides home are a great time to question who you are and what in god’s name you are doing with your life. Nothing brings you back to earth quicker than waiting in a dank, subway station at 1:30am, no train in site, bums sleeping all around you while MTA employees are hosing down the platform. Those are depressing moments, or should I say hours, in which you contemplate why you are doing this to yourself. You just dropped 30 or 40 on drinks and food. It’s Monday. You shouldn’t have gone out but talked yourself into it, you had a terrible time and now you’re stranded and considering spending even more cash to climb into a cab. Now we’re looking at $60 for a miserable night. You don’t have $60 for this nonsense. To really drive it home, there is a subway performer behind you cranking out smooth jazz on a Casio keyboard providing the perfect soundtrack to your ridiculous life. You’re watching rats scurry around on the tracks and you start to come up with names and back stories for them all just to stay entertained. You just start laughing as trains pass by, empty, that don’t even belong on that track. What is going on? You rub your eyes, certain that the EL from Chicago just passed by, then the Polar express and then one of those old-timey carts with the 2 guys propelling it as they crank the handles up and down. This place is ridiculous.

Then there’s the prospect of climbing into a cab that picks you up only to boot you out when he finds out you live in Brooklyn. I’ve found that there is a general disdain for going out into the wilds of New York. Even better is the cab driver’s refusal to call dispatch when I am not 100% sure of every highway interchange. I just blurt out “BQE! That’s all I know!” We sit on a highway in a stubborn stand-off. “Believe me, I am NOT withholding information, Mr. cab driver. I don’t have any more information as to the whereabouts of my home. If I did, I would love to tell you so I could get the hell out of your stank cab. You, on the other hand have a radio dispatch that connects to someone at headquarters who can tell you directions, you numb nut. I know you’re just trying to run up the fare, asshole. Also, isn’t it your JOB to know how to drive around NYC because that’s ALL you do ALL night long? Guess what, I spend all of my time traveling in magical underground tunnels to reach my destinations, or if I had a car I am pretty sure I would be in that right now driving myself home. Is it really that crazy that I need you to be the expert right now?” Somehow you get home via some strange route, while the cab driver is cursing you out on his cell phone in Swahili to one of his friends from the homeland. The cab ride just cost $30. The world has gone mad but thank god I imbibed $40 worth of shitty drinks to keep reality at bay until sometime tomorrow.

There’s also the fun phenomenon of actually knowing someone who has a car. Suddenly it’s high school again and 10 of us are packed into a Honda Civic, ass to elbow, trying to look inconspicuous so as not to attract police attention. What seems like a brilliant idea soon wanes as you realize no one in this car knows how to get around Brooklyn either. There’s definitely no dispatch and you’re all drunk and losing sensation in your limbs. Two hours later, after accidentally ending up in Staten Island, having to fork over money to gas up the car due to an unexpected 150 mile road trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn, it’s 4 in the morning, you’re famished, exhausted and could have been home 90 minutes ago by just taking the train.

Nights when you actually make it home in under an hour feel like a major victory. Somehow, you don’t feel so bad about going out on a Monday when you are out of the city and snuggled into bed in Brooklyn all within 45 minutes. But don’t be fooled. If you moved to Brooklyn, it’s best to realize right away that your best bet is to sever all social ties with friends in Manhattan. Get really used to walking to the local watering hole in your sparse, scary neighborhood. On the upside drinks will be cheaper and there’s a chance you might be the hottest thing to rock “Farrel’s Pub” since 1983. Advances from drunk welders aren’t all that bad and you may just get a free shot of Mohawk Vodka for being such a baller.

NO matter how you slice it, there is something insanely wrong with the transit situation here in this city. I know, I know, it would be madness if everyone had a car, but really-- could we just warm up already outside so I can start riding my bike and transform into an aggressive, pseudo-punk rock vintage bike peddler? If I am going to combat insanity and incompetence every day I would prefer to do it on a rusty Schwinn; cutting through parks, jumping curbs and imagining there was an intricate system of alleys for me to navigate while breezing by suckers streaming down into subway stations and huddling in bus terminals.


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