Thursday, April 12, 2012

First World Country, Third World Subway

There are so many exciting things about being back in New York City - the endless choices of fresh food at Trader Joe's, seeing normal girls on the street who look like they've stepped out of Vogue, window shopping in NoLiTa, Central Park on a gorgeous sunny day.  I know I sound like a golden retriever, but there are many reasons to love New York.

And then there's the subway.

N/R line at 34th Street

It gives India's slums a run for their money
After using Hong Kong's pristine and timely MTR - where I could eat off and sleep on the ground, I feel like I'm in a slasher movie when I'm in the subway here.  In three short months I've already experienced the following:
  • a group of teenagers eating after-school snacks (chips, granola bars, candy) on the train and brazenly throwing the empty wrappers on the floor of the subway car
  • the smell of a homeless man on the train which has literally emptied the car (suddenly I remember the #1 rule of riding the NYC subway - an empty car is a bad - not a good, thing)
  • getting followed up and down the platform by a strange man who is creepily smiling at me
  • being absolutely terrified when I get off at my stop and see a teenager in a black ski mask pass me to get onto the train
  • sitting in a dark tunnel between stations...for 5 minutes...with no announcements...knowing I'll now be late
This is all in addition to people begging you for money, no cell phone service and rats scurrying around on the tracks.  When summer rolls around, you can add sweltering heat and a foul smell to the mix.

The upside?  When the 3-piece mariachi band or 3-man barbershop quartet (triplet?) visit your car and their music is so peaceful you almost forget you're in Return of the Living Dead.


  1. True - the NY subway is old, filthy and can be dangerous in some parts, but it gets you to where you go more efficiently than (dare I say) HK.

    Consider a commute from Happy Valley to Central: real time on (packed) MTR about 8 minutes but the long winding walk in the underground, in sweltering heat, often takes 20 minutes at both ends. Not to mention the nasty draft from all directions when you stand(perhaps they design for short people). This is common in China, I find, too.

    Worse yet, some bus stops in HK are confusing as hell: the #23 bus stop at Statue Square is two ways. Once we inadvetently got on one going the wrong way (Wan Chai, as opposed to mid levels west), and the driver graciously demanded, at Wan Chai terminus, another full fare from us to continue riding back. Now, who, in their right mind, would put bus stops going opposite ways at the exact same spot? Only in HK, I'm afraid. And that goes some way to show the dysrationalia of locals, to put it mildly.

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