2002-07-27 / Letters

An Unpleasant MTA Experience

An Unpleasant MTA Experience

Dear Editor;

"There is an AC power failure at Jay Street. We will be moving shortly when we get the okay from the command center."

For close to 2 hours my fellow straphangers and I had to listen to the conductor repeat this line in his best Felix Ungar nasal drone only to be interrupted by a female conductor whose apologetic tone could not make up for her grammatically incoherent gibberish. Neither of these people was able to placate my anger or the anger of my weary and frustrated homebound commuters. We were at the mercy of the underground hell we call the MTA.

It's 8:15 p.m. and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in cahoots with Con Edison, has taken close to four hours of my life. I cannot blame the power failure as much as I blame the MTA. I'll explain why in a minute.

I live in one of the sweetest neighborhoods in New York. Belle Harbor is the jewel of Queens, a beach community whose tradeoff is an hour and half commute to and from Manhattan. It could be a much shorter commute but the powers that be will not let that happen for some political reasons. God knows why.

My last appointment in Manhattan was in Tribeca so I had a choice between the number 2 line and the A train home. Looking at my watch I saw it was 4:40 p.m. so I figured I can catch the rush hour A line that goes directly to Rockaway Park, circumventing a shuttle train and therefore getting home quicker to celebrate my son's birthday. This was not to be.

Running down the Canal Street Station I saw that the C train was sitting and waiting. From the look of the passengers I saw that they were waiting for a while. When the train finally did pull out I breathed a sigh of relief as an A train slowly pulled in. A little too slow but I'll take it. As soon as I boarded and we commenced forward on a trip that will take me through 3 boroughs, we stopped in mid-tunnel. That is when the announcements began. Every few minutes we heard the incessant inane reminder that there is a power failure at the Jay Street Station, and we will continue shortly. As we neared the second hour of sitting in a tunnel with hot air blowing out of the vents, I looked at my fellow commuters and came to a realization. We, as New Yorkers, from whatever walk of life we are from, having something in common. We all have a hatred for the same thing. It differentiates us from all the other states in this country and is what makes us unique. We loathe stupidity. We can tolerate a lot of things, but stupidity is not an attribute we can stomach.

When that A train pulled into the Canal Street station with the alacrity of a French thought, the conductor could have done me and my fellow riders a favor. He or she could have warned us of the problem facing us. Sure it's easy to say that they don't know the extent of the power failure and how long it will last but this is where the stupidity comes in. They should know. It's their job to think ahead. Unfortunately, we were not dealt the swiftest conductors.

We finally pulled into the High Street-Brooklyn Bridge station around 6:30 p.m., and I looked at my weary fellow passengers as they smiled and clapped but I knew better. "Last Stop," the moron bellowed. "Everyone off the train." A collective New York sigh of disgust emanated in unison and we walked out of the hot subway car into a sweltering station where hundreds of irate and perplexed passengers inundated a hapless police officer with questions he could not answer. I heard someone mention the Number 2 train so I sped up the stairs, I turned my cell phone on and in the process, grabbed some type of pink ticket that a fresh faced rookie was handing out. The fact that I had an unlimited monthly metro card did not deter me from taking whatever the MTA was giving out. The extra buck and a half they lost on me is the least of their problems. Their mismanagement and union chokehold should be their main concerns.

I emerged from the station like a West Virginian coal miner, sweating, coughing and welcoming the rays of sun that enveloped my body. The place was a virtual zoo with hundreds of commuters barraging another cop with the same questions they peppered the first one with. But my New York instincts took over and I followed a crowd towards Borough Hall where I knew I can grab the IRT line to Flatbush Avenue and hop onto the Greenline to the Rockaways. All those familiar with the Greenline Bus can stop snickering now.

As I walked towards Borough Hall I called my wife. When she nonchalantly answered the phone, me thinking that she is beating her chest with worry. I yelled if she watched the news and if she knew I was stuck in a tunnel. I always loudly asked her for all to hear if she knew how incompetent the MTA, the conductors, the unions, Con Ed and Mayor Bloomberg were. I was blaming everyone and I was fuming. She calmed me down and asked if she should pick me up. I replied in the negative saying that I'm jumping on the 5 train and I should be on the Greenline Bus in 40 minutes. Those familiar with Greenline Bus can commence snickering.

I rode a nice air conditioned 5 train to Flatbush Avenue and sped up the stairs praying that a Q35 was waiting for me. It was not. What was waiting was a very long line of sweating Belle Harbor and Breezy Point commuters who were obviously baking in the sun. I asked a person at the front of the line how long they were waiting and she answered 40 minutes. I asked her if anyone called the Greenline and she snickered and said "you mean green slime?" I laughed nervously and speed dialed the bus company. The guy who they dispatched me to was a real winner. I explained to him that people have been waiting for close to an hour and where was the Q35. This bozo actually feigned ignorance. I asked him if the delay had to do with the Jay Street power outage. "Yeah," he replied. The Marine Park Bridge was affected, he told me. "You mean the A train problem had to do with the Q35 delay? I asked. "Yes," he answered." Because of the A train problems, there were too many passengers disembarking and they needed the extra buses." I calmly called him an idiot and hung up. I hung up because I wanted to go home and did not have time to argue with a guy who had no clue what was going on.

I called my wife who told me to take the B41 to Kings Plaza where she will pick me. I blessed her, hopped on a 41 bus and as we drove down Flatbush Avenue, three Q35 buses were pulling into the bus stop. I guess the dispatcher called Dunkin Donuts and told the drivers to get back to work.

Well, I got home to help my son celebrate the 14 year old birthday. I tried to be pleasant coming off an unpleasant MTA experience. I do not blame Con Ed. I mean, power failures happen. Unfortunately, so does stupidity.


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