Nobody walks in the subway anymore. I say this to myself but even in my own head, my voice sounds weary this early in the morning.
Look down in the New York City subway and you'll see feet. Lots and lots of feet. In high heels, sneakers, work boots, dress shoes, and casual loafers, the feet pounding on the filthy, century-old floor have one thing in common: they are moving quickly. If it's not an all-out sprint, it's at least a two-steps-at-a-time, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way stride. In the middle of it all, I try to maintain a more reasonable pace amidst enough jostling and bumping to please even the most diehard roller derby fanatic.
The prehistoric subway system of New York City was obviously designed well before anyone could have ever have dreamed of millions of riders each day. Still, in general, that imposing amount of straphangers could theoretically all fit without much fuss if humanity was further along in its glacially gradual evolutionary process. But, since we're stuck in the primitive confines of the early twenty-first century, illogic reigns supreme and the trains are a daily-but essentially unfunny-replay of the infamous (and over-rated) stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' classic 1936 film, A Night At The Opera. I say "over-rated," because the Marxsters did infinitely more comical work but somehow, it is the stateroom that has become synonymous with their genius thanks to myriad film critics afraid to buck the system and be original.
Be that as it may, once all the comfortless plastic subway seats are muy occupado, Big Apple train riders regularly display a bizarre affinity for the doorway...and therein, my friends, lies the rub. As each frustrated passenger boards, they silently insist on standing within a foot or two of the same door from which they entered. Thus, the middle of the car is a veritable oasis of acreage-a convincing testimony to the concept of space, if you will-but rarely does anyone even consider venturing beyond their beloved doorway. The inescapable aftermath of this irrational behavior as the train begins to get more and more crowded is, of course, serious human gridlock.
The preventable logjam by the door can get ugly. Very ugly. You have hundreds of frenzied rush hour commuters who-at this precise moment-pretty much hate their lives and their jobs. Yet, for some unexplainable reason, they insist on standing in the most crowded portion of the car: the doorway.
It doesn't get much better on the stairs. As I deboard the N Train to walk down to the #5, I am greeted by another bottleneck, as it were. The pristine logic of one line of drones walking down and one line walking up is not within the grasp of Gotham's subway commuters. If I ever required evidence as to how humanity creates more problems than it could ever dream of solving, I need only stand back and witness the behavior on the Lexington Avenue staircase on your average weekday morning.
As I find myself an unwilling participant in this underground mosh pit, I can hear my man Sophocles chuckling as he sez: "The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities."
That goes double at rush hour...
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.