Monday, September 10, 2007


So today, it turns out, is the A train's seventy-fifth birthday. There was a piece in the Times— "Longest, and Possibly Coolest, A Train Still a-Thrummin at 75," by Manny Fernandez. No mention of its relevance to the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, however.

Last Friday, I took my last one-seat ride of the season with the four chatty guys on the 7:59 out of Rockaway Park. They sit in the first car, commenting on the news of the day. The one with the most annoying voice reminds me of Cliff the Mailman on "Cheers." A woman applied her makeup. A guy was watching a DVD—"Heroes"—when a willowy pregnant black woman got on at Utica (where else?). He did not hesitate: he stuck out his hand and tapped her and offered her his seat. "Thank you," she said, accepting. He stood against the door at the head of the train, balancing and bobbing as he held his portable DVD player and watched his movie. He got a seat at Jay Street.

The population on the train changes drastically when school starts. Suddenly kids are lugging physics textbooks. A student sat next to me, with his back to me, for part of the ride: he was well turned out, in a black-on-black Yankees cap, worn backwards, with the sticker still on (size 7 1/2, but it was purposely too large), oversize white T-shirt and black jeans, a black North Face backpack, and sapphire-blue headphones. Once the train goes underground, and cell-phone coverage stops, it's really kind of intimate, being sealed underground together.

So today I was back in the driver's seat, parked in a Monday/Thursday 8:30-10 A.M. spot. I got there at about 9:20, having parked last night in a commercial zone that was good till 8 this morning, then moved to a meter for an hour and a quarter. I got the last spot on the block. My studies of the Wave this summer paid off, as I now that I know it's illegal to paint your curb yellow, and I have no fear of parking at a yellow curb. This yellow curb extended the entrance to a parking lot, and it was nerve-racking to watch in my rearview mirror as S.U.V.s turned into the lot, missing me by inches. There is a notice posted at the parking lot: "We are not responsible for nicks or scratches to plastic or painted bumpers." I just hope I still have both tail-lights when I return on Thursday.

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