Friday, July 29, 2005

Viva MTA

Surely one of the worst subway stations in Manhattan is the 168th St. 1/9 (now merely 1) stop. There is no stairway or ramp; one must descend into the sewer via stifling, claustrophobia-inducing elevator. Now sweating from every pore, the hapless straphanger is confronted by a hot blast of stench when the elevator doors open. It's essentially an open sewer, somehow populated by your usual mix of rats & mice & pigeons. You've seen worse, you say? I dunno, maybe. This is fairly bad, especially in summer, when it's 160 degrees down there. Why "viva MTA"? They finally turned on some fans on the platform.

I'm pretty new here; I don't know. But I've been told that since the homeless shelter (once the largest in New York) in the nearby Armory closed (to become the New Balance Track & Field Hall Of Fame), many of its previous clients relocated to the subway tunnel on a casual basis, particularly in winter. It may have seemed to be something of an improvement; the Armory was a breeding ground for multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. There are "public service" ads on the subways here reminding us that we are not to offer assistance to homeless people; instead, friendly & well-trained MTA employees will do the job. I'm sure they exist; I'm sure they are probably capable & committed; I'm also sure that there can't be enough of them. Never seen one at 168th St., where people in need of assistance lie insensate in various corners of the platform.

The gum patterns are interesting, though. Impressionistic splotches of black hugging the walls, clustering around the bases of benches and maps, corresponding to human traffic patterns. Hundreds, thousands of black splotches, dating back who knows how long.