I have such a love/hate relationship with the city's public transportation (as I'm sure we all do, save for the people who are wealthy enough to avoid it all together). When I first moved here, I was so completely overwhelmed by the subway that I tried my best to avoid it all together. And that was pretty easy, given that the only line near Columbia was the 1 Train and the university's neighborhood is packed with almost everything you could need. But now, alas, I must ride the subway every morning to work and every night when I'm going home. I can pretty much figure out how to get from point A to point B without having to look it up on hopstop. I know which trains run local, and which ones run express. Even better, I've finally stopped calling the trains by their color, which was a weird holdover from my limited D.C. Metro experience. Visitors and strangers now think I look trustworthy and friendly enough to ask me for directions and about which trains run where. It's pretty bizarre, to be honest. I don't know when the switch flipped.
The subway is nice in that it can get you almost everywhere that you need to go. Is it nice in the sense that you weep with the stations' beauty every time you descend into the belly of the city? Uhhhh no. Most of the stops look like something out of Logan's Run or Escape from New York, and those are the ones that are being remodeled. It's fairly reliable, except when it isn't, in which case you have no way of knowing until some man or woman's voice comes trickling through the speakers, masked by a burst of static, or too quiet to hear over the street traffic above you. Then you have to make a fast decision whether you want to chance the wait, or if you want to see if you can tempt fate and get on a bus or see if you can hail a cab during rush hour. And when it's off peak hours and you're out in Brooklyn or Queens? Forget it. I've waited as long as a half hour for a train to come.
I complain on Twitter all the time about the morning traffic on the L train. It's pretty gross, people, especially if I don't time it just right. Getting to the station five minutes later can mean the difference between finding a seat and being mashed up against the bodies of ten people as they try to force their way onto an overcapacity train. Some day, the MTA is going to have to hire people who have the fun task of wedging grumpy people onto the full trains like so:
(Except, you know, probably not--the MTA is broke as a joke.)
In any case, I'm constantly impressed by how rude people can be on the trains. Like, in what world is it okay for some young dude to not even offer up his seat to a very visibly pregnant woman? And why does some Well-Mannered Vigilante have to be the one to point this out to people:
Or look at Subway Douchery, which has no shortage of daily material. It gives a whole new meaning to "you have to see it to believe it."
Aside from the rude jerks that have no qualms about pushing you when the manuscript you're reading gets to close to their face (RUDE. I AM STILL MAD.), the subway has a lot of interesting characters getting on and off at every stop. More often than not, you can overhear some hilarious and scandalous conversations happening, which almost always makes MY day. And I like that I can sit there and read or think about my story during the thirty minutes it takes (on a good day) to go the 1.5 miles home.
But don't worry. Every time I even start to get warm and fuzzy feelings about riding my trains, I see a small family of rats attacking an abandoned Dunkin Donut, and the universe rights itself again.