‘And you put it in here?’

“And you put it in here?” I heard her ask as I hopped off the last step down to the subway. She was pointing at the change slot on the turnstile.

The man in the booth answered. I couldn’t hear him, but I knew what he said.

“You put it where it says ‘coin return’?” she asked.

No. That’s the coin return button, he explained.

A newbie. Marvelous.

She looked comfortable, like she’d been standing there a while. Like she would continue standing there for as long as she needed to until she understood every nuance of buying a token, dropping it in the slot and passing through the turnstile.

The Q&A went on like that. She had questions about the price of the tokens. She had questions about the direction of the train. She had questions about timing and where to make transfers and how to make transfers.

I didn’t mind that she was a newbie. It takes some time to figure out the subway in a new city. I’d been there plenty, myself. At least she had a person to ask instead of staring at an incomprehensible sign. Let her take all the time she needed—but please, for Pete’s sake, after I made my train on time.

I stood behind her and tried to look patient.

Someone who tries to look patient rarely ever does.

A man and a woman bounded down the stairs together behind me. He dropped his token in the slot and slipped right through the turnstile. She needed to pay cash, and like me, she started out politely waiting.

Her friend started to fret. I sensed a train was coming.

“Can I buy a card?” asked the newbie.

A card. If only. While we’re at it, could they install a bloody token machine at this goddamn stop, too?

Oh, how I wished I could just tune out her incessant questions.

Just then a train pulled up.

The woman next to me jumped ahead and slapped down two dollar bills on the window sill of the attendant booth. He pressed a button, and she clicked through the turnstile.

Oh, how I wished I had dollar bills, dollar coins, quarters.

Meanwhile, Ms. newbie kept asking her questions. No pause. No urgency. Nevermind who might be behind her — Oh, there are other people here besides me? — she had questions. The attendant nodded and answered back and motioned me over. Maybe he saw into my soul and sensed murderous thoughts.

I stepped to the side of the lady and put down my fiver. “Two-pack, please,” I said.

The man gave me the pack of two tokens and my change instantly, but it was not fast enough. By the time I gathered up the change, broke though the plastic wrapper — really? a plastic wrapper? for two coins? — and dropped the token into the slot, the doors of the train were closing. Before I was on the other side of the turnstile, the train was rolling away.


0 Responses to “‘And you put it in here?’”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

the untallied hours

%d bloggers like this: