Monday, July 23, 2018

Letters And Numbers And Bums, Oh My!

by Brain (writer), New York, January 17, 2008


Thoughts on the NYC Subway System

It's 2:00 a.m. and I am drunk, standing on the platform in Union Square waiting for the uptown number 6 train. It smells horrible underground, an acrid stench of sweat, urine, and stagnant water, and I am not sure if the smell is me or just the smell of the train station. I lift my shirt over my nose and take a whiff, it's definitely the train station. I lean over the edge of the platform, wobbling a bit from all the Guinness and whisky I’ve been drinking, to see if I can see the train coming. I see nothing in the tunnel. I look down and see two rats scurrying in the tracks trying to find some food. Somewhere in the Union Square station there is a guy bang-bang-banging away on a set of plastic buckets, it sounds very tribal and the echoes reverberate through the tunnels. Surprisingly there are actually a few people waiting for the train, I'd say more than ten. Amazing. I never really stopped to think about what kind of person takes the train so late in the night. Me of course, but who are these other folks? Where are they going, what are they going to do? A light pops into the tunnel, then the screeching of steel wheels on a steel track. The train emerges from the tunnel, a silver serpent gliding on the tracks.

You will not find the busiest place in New York City on Wall Street, no, to find that place, you will have to go underground. If New York City is a living organism, than the subway is its circulatory system. Veritable streams of people crowd subway stations, like the red blood cells that flow in our veins. The subway is one of my favorite things about living in this city. I’m not exactly pleased with the service, or the fact that they plan on raising the fair again, but generally speaking, I enjoy riding the subway. I get a good portion of my reading done on the subway. One could encounter people from all walks of life on the MTA subway system: The homeless, religious fanatics, businessfolk, buskers, tourists, and the regular commuters. They travel uptown and downtown, from the upper west side to the lower east side.

These subway lines have history to them. The NYC subway system is 150 years old! Have you ever seen the intricate tile work in the subway stations? Well some of those tiles are really fucking old. This brings me to another point, which is that some of these subway stations are hubs of some great art, whether it’s an old black dude playing the delta blues at the Times Square station, or a clown juggling at Grand Central. There is so much to see in a place that I bet a lot of straphangers (that’s the lame nickname given to those who ride the subway) do not even pay attention to.

In a city with millions of things to do, and billions of things to see, nothing intrigues me more than our wonderful subway system. Sure, I go to plenty of bars, and I visit the museums regularly, I make the bi-monthly trip to Central Park so I can urinate in Strawberry Fields, but I couldn’t get to any of those places without my wonderful subway. Perhaps my love for the subway will die when I get off my ass and learn to drive. Maybe it’ll be when I move to wherever my future self moves. I know this much for sure, I will never, ever, take the fucking bus.

If you care to learn some more about the history of the NYC subway system and all the wonderful things that it has to offer, go here:

About the Writer

Brain is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Letters And Numbers And Bums, Oh My!

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By Ariel on January 17, 2008 at 02:10 pm

Very cool article. I can totally relate to this. I've lived in Paris for most of my life and loved the subway there. It's like a parallel world under our cities, with its own stories, celebrities, landmarks, etc.

I really wish LA had an actual subway (i.e. a useful one with more than 3 stations and a half)...

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By Lady D on January 17, 2008 at 03:12 pm

I love the New York subways. I still have a map from the seventies. L A needs a lot of work in that area.

Good article

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By Jen on January 17, 2008 at 03:30 pm

Next to looking up from fidgeting with my purse and realizing that my buddy had led me to the center of times square as I searched for my lip gloss (took my breath away)...the subway.  THAT was my favorite part of the city.  Central park is pretty cool too....but the subway...yeah...its like a sub-culture.

Nice piece!

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By C.V. Harris on January 17, 2008 at 03:52 pm

There's no place like New York!  Good article.....

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