Saturday, October 09, 2010

Babs Not On A Bus

"I didn't get a toy train like the other kids. I got a toy subway instead. You couldn't see anything, but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by." - Stephen Wright  (American actor and writer, b.1955)

New Yorkers can be divided into two groups. The bus travelers and the subway riders.

For the first few years of my life in New York I was a subway person. No particular reason. Well, now that I think back on those early days, I perhaps I was influence by my friend Babs.

Babs is from Australia but has lived in New York for yonks. She is one of the kindest, caring empathetic people that I know. She's one of those people who would bend over backwards to be accommodating. Except in one area.

The area of New York buses. If I say to Babs, "Let's get the bus," she'll look at me as if I've lost my marbles. "No way," she'll say, my ever-accommodating friend. And there'll be no changing of her mind. A different, a less flexible Babs is revealed.

I think most subway people are like Babs in this respect. They refuse to compromise. Bus New Yorkers on the other hand, are quite prepared if necessary, to go down to the murky underground of Manhattan to catch a subway if necessary. No we don't LIKE it, but very occasionally it just must be done.

Subway walkway, under Times Square.
The man in the center IS dressed as a horse ...
It is hot down there, even in winter. I don't like the way the rats come out to play on the tracks. Subway rats are social rats. With each other that is. They dart here and there bouncing around playing 'hide and seek' or 'catch the rat'.

Subway New Yorkers pretend not to see them. And perhaps they don't. For it is hard to focus in the bowels of the earth with the blasts of hot air, the grime, the crowds and the trash swirling around one's feet.

Up on the surface of the planet, bus people wait in bus shelters, holding their Kindles and cell phones, getting ready for a civilized ride to wherever. Sometimes we speak to each other. Smile, even. It's a different world on the surface.

Another thing I've noticed, is that bus people "look" to see if a bus is coming. Sometimes they'll step off the kerb and peer hopefully into the distance. I think bus people are visual people. Subway people use different senses. "I feel a train coming," said Babs last week when we were waiting on a subway platform. First I was puzzled, and then I felt it too, though I would not have noticed anything had she not pointed it out. Whoosh woosh went the air as the train approached one of the many tunnels converging on the platforms.

Casa Frela Gallery - Harlem Art Walk 2010 Opening Night
Last night we went to the Casa Frela Gallery in Harlem. It was part of the Harlem Art Walk 2010. There were a few of us in our group - long-term New Yorkers, though none of us were born in America. Standing around drinking wine, and people and picture watching, I was thinking how no matter where they are, opening nights at art galleries are the same everywhere in the world.

After a couple of very enjoyable hours we walked back to the 116th Street Subway. I looked longingly as a few buses drove past us, but I know when I'm beat. "Subway!" commanded Babs.

A group of young women, strangers, were walking behind us. One of them must have opened her purse as a $10 note started floating along the sidewalk. I managed to stomp on it and secure it with my foot, and Babs muttered, "that was quick, Kate."

One of the young women - its owner - retrieved it. "Thanks, Kate," she said as quick as a wink. I smiled. So New York. The familiarity of strangers.

The young women walked ahead of us. Cool black women on their way to a night on the town. They were discussing how much money they each had. "I had $39 but lost 10 then Kate found it," I overheard the owner of the $10 saying to her friends.

"Ah New York!" Gotta love it. Subways notwithstanding.

My name is Kathleeenwng and I approve this message.

1 comment:

Jaded NYer said...

Well, I am of two minds regarding the bus.

On the one hand I like the bus, because you can see where you are going, you can get fresh air when the doors open and you can get off if it gets stuck.

On the other hand, the traffic lights and people who can't drive, makes the bus take forever and makes me nuts.

So I have to say for speed the subway wins, but for seeing where you are going and being above ground the bus wins

Post a Comment