The New York City MTA has an uncanny ability to catch both its patrons and its workers at their worst. Another day ticks by, and people are blocking the doorways, shoving the elderly, sighing heavily as they try to get home, get to work, get to school. This communal experience quickly turns into an independent mission in which everyone seems to be preventing each other from succeeding. But last Saturday night, the conductor on the uptown D train was an exception to the rule. And this is no small feat—reminding at least this hurried New Yorker that there’s more to a commute than just getting there.
At 11:00 PM, residents of New York City rode the train up Central Park West to their respective destinations. Some slouched in their scratchiti-ed orange seats, some tested out their underground sea legs, but everyone had somewhere to be—as may be expected on the subway. And as I grew frustrated with why the doors continued to open and close repeatedly at each station, with why people simply would not stand clear of the damn closing doors, the recurring voice on the intercom reminded me, without equivocation, exactly where we were. Forty-second Street. Seventy-third Street. Ninety-sixth Street. He spoke empathetically, without haste. He was kind, and invested, and aware.
Beneath all the anxiety and tardiness, the unveiled truth was that I was resisting connection. This conductor was there with me. And so were so many others—gutter punks and landscaped P.R. interns alike. The seeming impossibility of any of us having more to do with each other’s lives did not matter. And so many of these routine, banal, parts of our lives—the transit, the paper work, the staircase, the red hand that blinks indifferently as we race across Third Avenue—are acts in which we are more honestly participating in group ritual—whether we like it or not. Even in New York we can intentionally share space, rather than doing so begrudgingly. After all, it’s in the distance between the platform and the exit threshold that the impossible surfaces. When else do we get to walk amidst a sea of one hundred randomized human beings who have never spoken, but can all agree on where to go?
photo credit: Carla Diaz
Also, a cool and daring move for those of you who enjoy “Poetry in Motion…”
Carla Diaz is a recent graduate from Amherst College and a writer hailing from New York City.