17
Jan
06

New York Lesson No. 330: Blame it on the Train

It was one of those “duh!” moments when I realized an important piece of mass transit physics. Let’s call it the Law of Conservation of Trains. When standing on a 7 platform in Darkest Queens waiting for a Manhattan-bound local train (for example, as I often do), and three Flushing-bound 7s and two Manhattan-bound express 7s pass before a jam-packed Manhattan-bound local finally pulls up, it’s important to remember that the converse phenomenon is absolutely just as likely to occur at some point. It only seems like the dark cloud is hanging over you, because you never see the experience of the people waiting for the Fluching-bound trains until you are that person. You only see the bad-luck story when it’s you, but you may rest assured it happens to every blessed one of us.

This leads to another central truth of subways: Never content yourself with the notion that the trains are late — unless there’s a mass transit strike, or an overturned and brightly burning diesel truck under the elevated tracks, or some other Act of God. No. It is your own stupid fault for getting there later than you meant to. In fact, on time is usually impossible if you are not early. The one fact about subway commutes that will never let you down is their unwavering unluckiness. (This has the benefit of making the lucky times seem so much more magical.)

I am from mass-transit-be-damned Detroit, and even I know this. The fifth or sixth or seventh time I was late to work, it struck me that, yeah, I’m really just an idiot, and I really just need to leave the house earlier, and none of the dyed-in-the-wool New Yawkers I work with is going to have much sympathy for the corn pone Midwesterner.

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