Since my very first subway ride in New York City, when I was 10 years old and I saw a blood stained seat (ok, so it may not have been my very first subway ride, but wouldn't it make for good blog if it had been?), I've had a complicated relationship with the NYC subway system. I am both scared of it and in awe of it. After 9/11, I was terrified to take the subway. Of course, I was also terrified to take the subway before 9/11, so this introductory paragraph already sucks.
I always had a touch of claustraphobia which would spring into action as soon as a train stalled between stations. "We apologize for the inconvenience," a recording would narrate my panic. "We are experiencing a delay. We will be moving shortly." This would repeat in a loop as I gathered witnesses within the subway car to sign off on my last will and testament. I, Marinka, hereby leave the Altoids in my purse to that bitch who has a seat across from me and can't stop doing the fucking word searches and look up and make eye contact with me to acknowledge that Holy fuck! we're stuck in this death trap. I hope that one of the Altoids gets lodged in her throat.
Once, in the mid-1990s, I got stuck on the train and started going into full-panic mode. "I'm really sorry," I told the woman stuck next to me, "but I am very panicked and I think that it would help me to talk to you."
"Ok," my co-stuckee said, "I am really scared, too." Which was a fine how-do-you-do, because I prefer to be the panicked one in the relationship. And I believe that by announcing my terror first, I had dibs on it.
"Why are you scared?" I asked. Turns out that she was afraid that after being on a stalled train for a while, they would force us to walk off it on the tracks and we'd all get electrocuted, especially her. Isn't that ridiculous? I don't understand why they let these nuts ride on the subway unattended.
"That makes no sense," I reassured her. "I've never ever heard of that happening anywhere. Your fear is dumb."
"Oh yeah?" she challenged me, somewhat offended, despite my reassurance. "Well, what are you afraid of."
"My fear is much more grave," I sighed. I was afraid that we would be stuck there forever, you see. That the rest of the world would forget about our train and we would be there, abandoned, and turning into fossils, curiosities for someone to find centuries from now, remnants of "Lost New York."
The track walking lady looked at me like I was the crazy one.
"How would that happen? All the other trains going downtown use these tracks, I think they'd notice if something was blocking their way."
If there is anything that I can't stand, it's people who don't respect other people's phobias. It could happen! All of Manhattan could suddenly decide to stay put and not use the subway for the next century. People are real homebodies!
Just as I was about to school her on the ways of tolerance, the train started to move. We were free! We were safe! Sorry, achealogists of the future!
It took me weeks after 9/11 to get on the subway. It would have been longer, but the bus that I took instead of the subway took forfuckingever and besides, I got motion sick if I read on the bus. Whereas, I could read on the subway. Sure, I was risking certain death, but I am proud to say that I am more lazy than cautious. It didn't help that everyone from politicians to psychics picked the subway system as a likely place of the next attack. Good thing I'm not the type to panic easily. One day John and I were going home from work on the subway and the train stalled and there was an inaudible announcement. "What are they saying?" I asked him, panicked. "Oh," he said, "something about 'due to terrorist activity at the next station, we are being delayed here.'" I still remember how hard I laughed and how amazing it felt to laugh at my fear, not because it was funny, necessarily, or unwarranted, but because sometimes it's easier to laugh, even when scared. And certainly more entertaining.