Benchmarks

1 Aug

As per usual, I was running late.  I had plans to meet a few friends for brunch on a recent Sunday at 12:30 PM and, of course, was rushing out of my apartment with only minutes to spare before the clock struck half past noon.  I live uptown, the restaurant is on the Lower East Side…you do the math.  So I power-walked to the subway station, darting through meandering pedestrians while simultaneously looking up the best subway routes and times on my phone.  iPhone kept telling me to take the 4/5 down to Brooklyn Bridge and transfer to the J.  I did not want to do this.  Due to a prior experience at that stop, I found the J confusing and stress-inducing.  Don’t ask why, I honestly don’t remember.  So I did some scrutinizing on the tiny little google map and discovered I could take the 6 to Bleecker and transfer to the F.  Much better.

I reached my station, hurried down the stairs, swiped my card and pummeled through the turnstile, only to wait in the dead air and deathly heat underground.  Naturally I began sweating profusely and instantly, as I am a menopausal woman in a 24-year-old’s body.  I quickly realized, thanks in part to the neon tape roping off the lower level, that all trains were running on the local track, meaning I could take the 4, the 5, or the 6 to Bleecker.  As I slowly began melting into Alex Mack on the platform, I tried checking my phone, hoping that the schedule was still up.  It was not, and seeing as how there is no cell phone service underground, I simply had to wait and pray that a train would come quickly.  It was already 12:30 PM, and I had made it six blocks towards my destination, which was over 95 blocks away.  Wonderful.

A 4 train in all of its air-conditioned compartment glory finally arrived, and I boarded, shoved my way into a seat, and waited.  About every seven seconds, I glanced up at the clock, trying to decipher just exactly how late I would be.  When you’re sitting on a local train that must make over a dozen stops before reaching your desired one, that’s a lot of glances up at the stagnant electronic clock.  I sat tight, basked in the cool air, and kept glancing, hoping to the subway gods that the train would just get there already…and fast.

Apparently these subway gods do exist, because at Union Square, a conductor announced something through the muffled microphone that cut in and out every other second.  Straining my ears to listen, I understood enough to realize they were switching the 4 to an express at Union Square, and the next stop would now be Brooklyn Bridge.  As everyone else around me began to panic a bit, frantically trying to locate the correct dots on the subway map to figure out when to get off, I quietly thanked Steve Jobs for continuously telling me to take the J.  Clearly, I was very unhappy about this change of direction.  However, I was extremely thankful to Mr. Jobs for making me appear like an easy breezy local in the sea of tourists and un-savvy subway riders.  I smiled a smug little smile, happy that I didn’t have to look at a map or stress out over how I was going to find an alternate way to get to brunch.

We pulled into the Brooklyn Bridge station and I lunged out of the train and onto the platform.  I was off, and on a mission to make it to the J train and brunch before my friends disowned me forever.  As I rushed to make the transfer, I felt a little vibration in my purse.  What?  Could it be?  Cell phone service?  I rummaged through my bag, located my phone, noted the text from my friend wondering where I was, and ran down the stairs to the J train track.  By this point it was already past 1 PM, and I didn’t have a second to spare.  Let me say, for someone who hates being late, I seem to be really great at doing it.

Seeing as how the train wasn’t coming, I contemplated just hailing a cab.  I then had a plan.  I would run up the stairs to the land of cell phone service, check the subway schedule to see when the next train would come, and then, depending on my results, would either wait for the train or take a cab.  I quickly started hauling ass back up the stairs, cell phone in hand.

That’s when I heard it.  The trickle that became louder and faster.  The sound of liquid against wrought iron or metal.  Was someone spilling something?  Before I could put two and two together, I turned in the direction of the sound and found myself standing inches from a woman, pants pulled forward, squatting and peeing on the stairwell, for all the world, and specifically my now-scratched out eyes, to see.  While freaking out internally, I calmly pivoted, turned back in the direction of the platform, and shuffled my way back down the stairs to wait and pray very impatiently for the next train.

That was the day this fine city inaugurated me as a true New Yorker.

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