Jessica Gross

Posts Tagged ‘mta’

Subway Fail

In people watching on April 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

I never mastered the art of reading a newspaper on the train. I’ve mastered the fold — I can get the thing down to a sliver — but it’s the opening, the folding of the front page to access page two, that stumps me.

Today, as I tried to make that first fold, my arms got carried away, as if they were commanded by a different brain. I nearly punched the man seated next to me in the face. He flinched, withdrawing from my newsweapon.

“Sorry!” I squawked. He smiled; all was well.

But I was embarrassed. Real New Yorkers can read the newspaper on the subway. As I got off, I apologized again.

“No worries,” he said. “It was funny.”

“I have depth perception problems,” I said.

Depth perception problems?

Bottom line: I need to practice the first-page fold. Maybe even in front of a mirror. (And never say “depth perception problems” again.)

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Bus Blooper

In people watching on March 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

At 3:00a.m. on Friday night (technically, Saturday morning), I hopped on the uptown M15 to head home from a party — my friend’s roommate’s boyfriend’s party. (Whew.) My roommate, on hearing what I’d done, chastised me. “The bus? At three in the morning? You’re insane.”

But I wasn’t: there were a few friendly folks aboard my trusty vessel. One guy yelled to his friend as he boarded, in a thick New York accent: “Call me at home!” (“Cawl me at home!”)

The bus’s microphone picked up his voice. “CAWL ME AT HOME!” The guy looked out at the four of us passengers, smiling. “I guess everyone heard that.” And, as he sat behind me, “I’m on here til 83rd Street!”

So, my two points: (1) the bus is safer than you think, and (2) even on public transportation, you can make a new friend. You just might have to embarrass yourself first.

Stop Requested

In musings, people watching on March 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

If you’ve never ridden a New York City bus, let me induct you into our elite circle with some info about protocol. Unlike our underground friend, the subway, the bus does not pull over at every stop along its route. No siree! If there are people at the bus stop, yeah, it’ll let them on. But if no one is waiting, something special has to happen.

Are you on the edge of your seat? I present you with the magic formula: to ensure that the bus will let you off, you’ve got to press the tape.

Huh? What’s the tape? Oh, silly you. Along the walls of the bus, at two-seat intervals, are sensor-filled strips, colored yellow or black. When you push on these pieces of “tape,” the bus driver is alerted that you’d like to get off at the next stop. That way, if no one’s waiting and no one needs to get off, the bus can sail right by the stop without wasting time.

It’s a brilliant system. As I mused about it today on the M79, something odd struck me: people usually don’t wait until the last minute to press the tape, hoping that someone will do it before them. With regularity, passengers request each stop way before the bus has reached it.

Why did this surprise me? For one, I’m not one of the responsible passengers: I often do wait for someone else to push the tape. And, whenever I wait, someone else takes action.
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I Hear the Best Quotes on the Bus

In quotables on January 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Early in the morning, a mother and a father (different families) were on school-run duty with their sons. The father turned to his parent friend and boasted, “You know, Eric loves to surf.” His son, on cue, jumped into a surfing stance — riding the bus, as it were.

“We don’t allow surfing,” the mother replied. She turned to her child, prisoner of neurotic parenting.

The father grimaced. “Eric, be careful,” he said. “There’s not enough space.”

Classic parent back-down: dad did a 180, but pretended it was unrelated to the mother’s disdain. I, meanwhile, took notes on my copy of the Week In Review.

Engulfed in the Crowd

In musings on January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I met a friend for dinner in Koreatown last night. He moved from Manhattan to Texas a few months ago and, in reminiscing about his city days, said that what most drew him to New York is what pushes so many people away — in fact, the people themselves. It’s a city full of residents who pay exorbitant amounts, he pointed out, just to be around really interesting people.

I’m not sure about that last part — I think people choose to live here as much for the prestige of affording a Manhattan apartment, and for the entertainment and feeding options, as for the interesting people. But there is a thrill to being surrounded by thousands of other humans who have no idea who you are. It’s even more anonymous than being truly alone because being part of a crowd emphasizes that you’re a stranger.
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Free(ish) Fun!

In musings, people watching on December 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

What costs one MetroCard swipe and flies over the East River?

Presenting: the Roosevelt Island Tram! This is my new favorite transport mechanism. It’s a gondola that takes you from Midtown East (60th and 2nd), over the river, to Roosevelt Island. It soars alongside the Queensboro Bridge like a fun little airplane. Once you’re on Roosevelt Island, you can take the Tramway, a tiny bus, all around the island — for only 25 cents! I felt like I was in the olden days.
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Subway Kids

In musings, people watching on November 20, 2008 at 11:51 am

Last night, two women boarded the uptown 1 with twin boys, aged seven. (I’m bad at guessing age, so i call any kid between five and 11 a seven-year-old.) These were raucous children. They wanted “window seats,” which apparently means the seats underneath the subway windows, which have no view 90 percent of the time. They also repeatedly threatened to bite their mother’s hands. She laughed.

The second woman, aware of other passengers’ scorn, tried to joke. “Anyone want two boys?” she asked the rest of the car. “Twins, very quiet.” No response.
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Overheard at the Bus Stop

In quotables on November 19, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Seventy-year-old woman: HelLO, Tom!

Stodgy, middle-aged man turns around.

Old woman: Oh, you look just like Tom! He’s — Tom — he lives across the street…Tom, my neighbor…

Not-Tom’s wife (snarling): It’s MIKE.

Me (to the wife, in my head): The chance that the old lady is hitting on your husband is zero percent. You should be so lucky.

Bus Driver Buddies

In musings, people watching on November 13, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Yesterday morning, at the intersection of York and 68th, our M31 bus driver laughed and waved.

I looked out the window to see who he was waving to. It was another MTA driver making a right onto York, in front of our bus.

Did they see each other at this intersection every morning? I wondered if they looked forward to the daily meet-and-greet.

But wait — did they know each other outside of these waving sessions? Maybe they’d never actually spoken, but had just seen each other at this intersection so many times they’d become familiar from afar! I imagined their eventual meeting after so many silent hellos:
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Back to the Bus People

In musings on November 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I’ve argued repeatedly that bus people are nicer. My brother visited a couple of weekends ago, and while on the bus, I repeated this, apparently my favorite and only sound byte.

“Well, yeah,” he said. “They know they’re going to be on the bus for a long time.”

Is that it? Are bus people just nicer than subway people because they’re committed to an indefinitely long journey? I prefer a cool self-selection theory, or something that involves old people. Thoughts?