Today was one of those days where I fantasized about chucking it all away and buying a dairy farm in Idaho, so that my commute would consist of pulling on some rubber boots and slogging across a muddy field to the barn.
The A train was already pretty much full when it pulled into my stop this morning. Now, pardon me for stating the obvious, but people don't stand when there are empty seats available. So if you can see through the windows that there are lots of standing people, it's a pretty safe bet that there are no seats. I say this only because this kind of logic seems not to have dawned on some of my fellow riders, notably the hobbit-sized old lady this morning who literally put her right elbow in my ribs trying to push past me onto the train; then she stands just inside the door and looks left, then right, then left again, scanning the train to see if there's any seats that the 50 or so standing people might just have happened to miss.
As I mentioned in a previous post, in winter subway riders swell up to three times their normal size, so even leaving 181st Street heading downtown, after making only 4 stops so far, it's pretty tight. The next two stops are the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal and then 168th Street, which is where the Presbyterian Hospital is, the Columbia med school, and the connection to the Broadway local subway. Leaving 168th Street you could barely breathe.
Then we sit in the tunnel for about 5 minutes, not moving. "Attention ladies and gentlemen, due to congestion up ahead, we're being held by dispatch." You wonder, after waiting 10 minutes for a train in the first place, and then proceeding at the speed of a tortoise, how on earth you've caught up with the train in front of you.
Alas, the previous train has "gone out of service." I'm not sure how many people you can actually get on a subway car at its most crowded, but I would venture to guess it's probably around 125 or so; in a ten car train, that's well over one thousand people. So we lumber into 145th Street on the local track (screech, screech, thud, wobble) and now you have 100 people per car or so trying to squeeze on. You can bet some of these people were late to begin with and the fact that their train got stuck only made it worse. They are determined, come hell or high water, to get on this train.
"Stand clear of the closing doors please."
Cursing. Sound of doors thudding unsympathetically against flesh and backpacks. Ding-dong.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is another A train directly behind this one, if you cannot get on this train, please wait for the next one."
Yeah, right. I fell for that once. Miraculously the doors managed to close, leaving a few stranded people behind. Then at 125th Street we repeated the whole process.
Finally we reached Columbus Circle. Even if New Yorkers were inclined to politely step out of the way to let people off, the train is so crowded there's nowhere to move. You end up literally climbing over people. You don't have a choice. "Jesus Christ!" spat a woman angrily as I stepped on her foot on my way out the door.
My sentiments exactly.
UPDATE: See today's New York Times editorial. (Riding the subway while inebriated is prohibited? Well...how the hell am I supposed to get home???)