The point when I realized the A train wasn’t coming was after the third, loud and completely unintelligible announcement at the Chambers station. I turned to a guy next to me, and he said, “We gotta take the E,” and he started walking to the other end of the platform. I followed, but saw that I also had the option of the 2 or the 3, so I followed the signs through the labyrinth and got on an uptown 2.
“Next Stop, Chambers Street,” was what the announcement said, and then, “Stand clear of the closing doors.”
I had walked from the Chambers Street station of the A, C and E to the Park Place 2 and 3, and now I would be completing the triangle of no progress, more or less. I sat through the Chambers Street stop, and as the doors closed again, it said, “Next stop, 14th Street.”
I had wanted West 4th, which is a local stop on the red line, so I was going to overshoot my stop and be even later for my lunch date.
I don’t have many lunch dates in New York City, because I have about as many people to see for lunch as I have fingers on my left hand. Most New Yorkers have real jobs, too, so they don’t really have time for lunch. Not that I ever aspired to be someone who goes out to lunch all the time. Wasn’t that a thing, “Ladies Who Lunch?” Isn’t that something I never wanted to be?
Express trains are good for crying, because you aren’t interrupted by lots of people getting on and off, especially if you’ve had a rough morning, and a migraine pill, and some meanness you tried and failed to correct on Twitter.
I got out at 14th Street and headed to a southern exit onto West 13th Street. I made my way down two short blocks to West 11th and then made a bad turn and went two long blocks the wrong way. Asking Google maps where the restaurant was, I discovered I was now a half a mile from my destination, on foot. I called my friend, and she was very understanding, even about hating New York. “I don’t just want to live someplace else,” I said to her. “I want to burn the whole place down.”
She replied, “That’ll take some time.”
Lunch was brief and delicious and fun. I am grateful for my five fingers’ worth of New York City friends, even if I’ve borrowed them from other people or from other lifetimes. She directed me, squaring my shoulders even, and pointed me back to the 1. Even I can get the 1 right. It’s a local train.
On the platform I was asked by a confused and distraught traveller how to get on the 2 or the 3 going uptown. I explained that he could go out and up and cross the street and go down and swipe again or get on this train and switch at another station. As I did this, my train arrived, and as I stepped towards it the doors closed for it to leave.
Make no mistake: New Yorkers in general are helpful and kind and will give directions and shortcuts. But in an urban area with 17.8 million people, even if only 1% of them are complete assholes, that makes 178,000 complete assholes, and some of them might drive subway trains.
On impulse, I tossed my jacket between the closing doors of the subway train, the way you might interrupt the closing doors on an elevator. This is a stupid, dangerous thing to do because doors in New York City subway trains don’t work the way they do on elevators. They close on your coat or your bag or your hair or your purse or your arm, and then the train leaves. The driver had seen me helping that other passenger and saw me do the jacket toss, too. The door opened and I got on.
The other people already on the car might have had faces filled with concern or scorn or derision or relief, but I don’t know because I didn’t look at them. I focused on my phone and played Bejeweled, because no one needs scolding by strangers, and especially not today.
When I got off the subway, I was looking forward to a quiet afternoon writing in the apartment. From the 1 to our apartment it’s only a few blocks, and those blocks aren’t the most unpleasant in TriBeCa. As I walked, I fired off a couple of tweets about the subway train driver’s incivility and how I almost sacrificed my jacket to the 1 train, and I found myself distracted by a man standing on the curb, half-facing me, pantomiming pecking at an imaginary phone in his hand and making terrible creepy cheeping noises. He said something derisive in his heavily French-accented English.
If my phone came with a flame-thrower app, I might be in jail right now.