Tuesday, January 25, 2005
nyc subway shit-show
There is quite a fucking ruckus going on here in New York City right now. And it's all because a homeless person (isn't it always the fucking homeless?), trying to keep warm, started a fire in a signal room a subway tunnel. The result was a relatively minor fire with massive consequences: two subways lines - the A and the C - have been crippled and may not be restored to normal service for three to five years.
[You can read the entire article here. If not, it's not necessary to read the article to understand the rest of this post, and I summarize the article below.]
[Christ, I have to do everything for you.]
Before we get too into this, I know that I often write about the subways in NYC, but I spend a lot of time on the subway. This is partially because in a fit of delirium I chose to move and lengthen my commute from 15-17 minutes door to door to 45-65 minutes door to door, and partially because I like to troll the subways at night, preying upon unsuspecting drunks who have passed out on the train - not robbing them of their cash, but rather rubbing my bird on their legs or arms or chins or any exposed skin. Sure, most of the time it's the drunk hobo types I do this to, but every once in a while I'll come across a passed out frat boy, and, well, it's like Christmas.
But I write a lot about the subway because when I'm on it, I do a lot of thinking. I'm either on the subway going to work in the morning, when I'm thinking about things like, "God, I'm tired as fuck" and "I wonder if today is the day that my boss finally breaks down and punches me in the face?" and "Does it make me gay that I had a dream about blowing Justin Timberlake last night and right now I'm the happiest I've been in years?" Or I'm on the subway heading home from a stressful day at work, when I think of all kinds of different things like, "I should definitely pick up some wine for tonight" and "What is the actual definition of 'stalking'? What's the difference between stalking and standing outside a woman's apartment building drinking cheap gin, crying, and masturbating?" and "Man, I hope when I go to sleep tonight I have another dream about blowing Justin Timberlake - that was fucking awesome!"
But it's also because my commute in the morning can completely make or break a day for me. Some days, you'll be lucky and have a short wait before an empty train comes, allowing you to get a seat, hopefully next to a lovely young Puerto Rican princess who smells like roses and poor. You'll start the day on a good note, and it'll carry over to the rest of the day. For example, when your boss asks you in the afternoon about whether you're finished with the task he assigned to you four days ago, instead of hiding under your desk and saying, "Um, Jason isn't here - he died, so go away", you can confidently say, "No sir, I am not finished. As a matter of fact, I wasn't even listening to what you were saying, because I had had an undercooked Whopper for lunch, and it took every fiber of being to prevent me from shitting myself all over your office. Now what was it again that you wanted?"
On the other hand, there are mornings in which you can wait for several trains, each one more crowded than the next, finally having to force yourself onto one. Then you're treated to a 50 minute subway ride, your face three inches from some guy's stank mouth, as he decided to eat some hot garbage for breakfast with this morning coffee. Then the day is much different - when this happens, I usually black out with rage, but from what I pieced together last time this happened, there was a lot of broken glass and a baby crying. But I really don't remember.
And because some homeless guy (who has not been found by the authorities, probably because he doesn't have a home), the commute of a whole shit load of people is fucked. Some highlights from the article, in case you didn't read it:
* the fire was started in a room no bigger than a kitchen, which is unguarded and impossible to fireproof
* this caused "the worst damage to the subway infrastructure since September 11, 2001", and will take "several millions of dollars and several years" to repair (after 9/11, the four stations that were closed after the attack were opened within one year)
* the A line will run one-third of the normal amount of trains; the C will no longer exist
* the A-C have a combined ridership of 580,000 each weekday
* only two companies in the world can repair the signals: one in Pittsburgh, the other in Paris
* there are dozen of these kitchen-sized signal rooms throughout the NYC subway system
* quote of the day from transit historian Clifton Hood, who has been waiting his whole life for this moment: "It seems astonishing that a single signal room would be so central to the operation of the line that it would take five years to recover from"
Allow me to join in the chorus of New Yorkers when I say, "Are you fucking kidding me???" One little fire caused by a homeless person trying to keep warm has devastated the NYC subway system and made the commute of half a million New Yorkers much, much worse? Good lord.
I feel for these commuters. I wouldn't wish what they now have to experience on a daily basis on my worst enemy. Well, maybe I would, but what I'm trying to say is that is really sucks. The impact of this subway nightmare can not be understated; this is the kind of shit that lowers property values in the affected areas, because no one will want to move somewhere where the commute will be such a hassle.
But what disturbs me most is that something seemingly so inconsequential has had and will continue to have such a devastating impact on the city. There are "dozens" of these signals rooms located throughout the NYC underground, all not fireproofed and unguarded. Indeed, unless this homeless person was a spymaster or ninja, they are also easy to gain entrance to.
Remember, this is one small fire in a signal room, on a Sunday afternoon, on the lines of one of the lesser-ridden subway lines, and it still will affect the commute of almost 600,000 New Yorkers every day for the next three to five years. What if a bunch of crazies were to plan an organized attack on a few these signal rooms? What if they hit some of the bigger, more important lines, and did so during the weekday? Can you imagine a more efficient, less deadly way to completely shut down the most populous city in America, and financially the most important in the world, for an extended period of time? If we can use this incident to hypothesize further, the city would be in complete and utter chaos for weeks, if not months.
If a homeless guy can do this (again, no offense to the homeless guy - I'm sure he's very skilled in the art of sabotage), what could someone who's thought about and planned this do? And who would be able to stop him? Are there any protections currently in place (nope), or will there be (not with the MTA budget the way it is)?
Ah, there's really nothing like living in New York. Greatest fucking city in the world. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to abuse some of my prescription Xanax.