Monday, March 10, 2008
I was perusing a subway map on the wall of the station at 28th and Broadway, trying to figure out which trains went to Borough Hall in Brooklyn, when a voice behind me asked, “Can I help you?” Huh? However he turned out not to be a crook, but a gentle little man wearing a red vest with MTA emblazoned on it. He told me I could take the R the whole way, and I was so overcome by this gesture of municipal solicitude that I thanked him as profusely as if he’d carried me there himself. You also have to understand, kiddies, that in my day the MTA made a special practice of keeping you from knowing where you were going; train lines were named with a dizzying array of letters and numbers (there was not only the R, but the RR), station attendants were surly, no maps were posted past the turnstiles nor were there directions inside the subway cars. When my train arrived, I floated through the doors in a haze of goodwill until the skeptical New Yorker in me kicked in and I began to wonder if this was part of a conspiracy by the MTA to butter us up for a fare raise.