Monday, March 8, 2010

No Pushing

The beaten path is safest, but the traffic's terrible.

Jeff Taylor
A good March Monday to you.
Now everyone knows that New Yorkers are a rude, unpleasant and dangerous group of thugs. Don't mess with New Yorkers because they'll knock you down as soon as look at you and probably pick your pocket in the process. So let me set the scene for you.

1. The Staten Island Ferry
2. The number 1 train
3. South Ferry Station
4. The stairway

The SI Ferry is a large and sturdy vehicle that sails between Staten Island and the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It has only those 2 stops. The trip takes about 5 minutes. There is only one entrance to the ferry and only one exit. The ferry has several decks, usually about 4. At capacity it can carry 3,500 people.

The IRT number 1 train is a local train that runs from up in the Bronx down the west side of Manhattan to the South Ferry Station where it loops around and heads back uptown. It has 10 cars each one carrying about 50 people at capacity. It's estimated the train could carry at least 500 people.

The South Ferry Station is called that because it's the only connection to the SI Ferry. In recent years the South Ferry Station has been redesigned and renovated to improve it and it is now an easy place to access, but my story takes place before that happened.

In the 80's, before the renovation, there was one small staircase that led from the train to the street level. At the top of the stairs was an enclosed area where the ticket booth was and doors on each side which opened out. Half way down the stairs, to the subway level, it narrowed and split into two directions.

The station platform was small and, as the train looped around and prepared to go back uptown, only the first 5 cars would be on the platform level. Anyone traveling in the last 5 cars had to walk forward to get off the train.

Southern Manhattan is filled to overflowing with huge office buildings, skyscrapers. Thousands of people work in those buildings.

To reiterate, you have a ferry with 3,500 people on it. You have a subway train with another 500 people at least, half of whom have to walk forward from 1 to 5 cars just to get off the train, You have a narrow stairway from the platform to an enclosed area with two doors out to the street.

Now, picture this. Every business day, at 8:30 in the morning, the height of rush hour, the number 1 train and the Staten Island Ferry both arrived at the same moment. About 500 people from the train are going up that staircase as at least another 500 people from the ferry are going down and all of them from both directions are in a hurry.

I would stand by the ticket widow every morning and watch in amazement. There was never any shoving, pulling, pushing, yelling, cursing, screaming or violence of any kind. It was a complete aggravation for everyone involved but they all got through it, past each other and on their ways with an absolute minimum of fuss. Every morning.

Considering all of the stealing of parking spaces, road rage and not-in-my-backyard mentality in this county, watching that I was proud to be a New Yorker.

When all was clear,I went downstairs, walked to the very front so I wouldn't interfere with the next mob of passengers getting off and waited for the 8:45. The ferry was off in Staten Island collecting its next load and almost no one got on the train when it was empty, so I had a nice leisurely ride back uptown.

(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
20 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond


Gerry said...

I am always amazed at how civilized and polite people are on our city buses no matter how dirty and even stinky the homeless might be who ride quite often, the druggies that nod out, the obese, even up to as high as 3 wheel chairs, and you know how long they take to load, unload, strap in, etc. You might hear intimate details in a cell phone conversation but not any heated exchanges among passengers hardly ever. I even saw a person get on in full clown outfit with long curled toe shoes on and nobody turned a hair, just acted like he was dressed pretty much like anybody else. Which is why riding the bus is not too traumatic to me as long as there is this much toleration of human beings for each other.

DB said...

From my friend Marty.

You really had to be a trooper in the mines of the subway and ferry undergrounds to appreciate what my friend, Dana, is talking about. You're a Native New Yorker. Yeah, it's like taking the next bite out of your toasted poppy-seed bagel with whatever you had on it... scrambled egg with bacon, or cream cheese, or buttered, or whatever, but you had it the same way every morning at the same place at the same time and it tasted the same way, "Great!" every time. So, hoop-de-doo. And all these little ins and outs of the New York City subway system, man, you were always half comatose while doing it and it always was splendid. How did we manage? Oy ves mea(?)! There's no body saner than Dana.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I have lived in two places where I took the train to work, San Francisco and Chicago, and I have to admit that I never had problems in either place. I liked the Chicago location because I could get a beer or three before taking the train, and only slept past my stop once :o)

Big Mark 243 said...

I think it is because there is a collective consciousness that takes over. Even though everyone has different destination, they have to work together to accomplish that goal.