With the possibility that the L train WON’T be shutting down, it’s got me thinking. A lot of people are happy. A lot of people are angry. A lot of people are ambivalent. There’s a lot of people in New York City, and they all have feelings! Most of them —which is a lot of a lot of people — have very intense feelings about the L train. And none so more than one angry rider I observed back in the day…
This particular prickly straphanger boarded a Manhattan-bound L train alongside me at Lorimer Street. (For the purpose of the story, I will be using “they” pronouns, as I am not going to assume this person’s gender, but you’re free to, and you’d probably be correct). I sat down while they, middle-aged and already irate, committed one of the first cardinal sins of the subway: stopping RIGHT INSIDE the doors and planting themselves there for the ride. The doors shut, and they opened their mouth the address the train: the second sin.
“DOES THIS TRAIN GO TO 14th STREET?!?” they bellowed. Directed at no particular person, but more like, generally, at their anger towards the world at large.
Dear reader, this is not due to mythical so-called “New Yorkers Are So Rude!” There is a very good reason why nobody did, or indeed, could, answer this question.
The L train runs through Manhattan, through Brooklyn, and Queens. If we embrace the conceit that Manhattan is the center of the universe and therefore the “origin” of the train line, the first five stops are, in order, at the following Manhattan intersections: 8th Avenue/14th Street, 6th Avenue/14th street, Broadway/14th Street, 3rd Avenue/14th Street, and 1st Avenue/14th street. Five stops. On 14th street.
We return to the rider, who has become impatient, and re-issues the question, this time, a little bit more aggro.
“DoEs ThIs TrAiN Go tO 14th StrEeT?!”
By now, we’ve all turned it over in our heads and realize there can be only one *helpful* answer to this perplexing query, and the answer is this: WE ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF A TOURIST. A tourist who has, somehow, made their way to one of the outer boroughs and now needs to get back to a Tourist Safe Zone (like, the M&Ms Store or something). It’s clear that the way to handle this, nay, the way to answer his question, is this:
And indeed, one of my fellow passengers speaks up:
“Where are you trying to go?”
“14th Street,” our Irate Tourist Friend huffs in a sigh of exasperation.
“Yeah, but, where?” Another passenger offers.
This is very common. Tourists ask stupid General Questions about Manhattan geography all the time. One time, I stopped a man from yelling at his entire family on the 42nd street platform because he’d been misled by ?his wife? into believing that 42nd street was the correct subway stop to get to Central Park. Before he hurt anyone, I instructed them to get on the A train and ride it for one stop, then get off. New Yorkers, I know this is oversimplified. But sometimes you just can’t watch a man yell at ?his kids? because of his own damn failure to read a simple color-coded map. So we offer to help, before shit gets out of hand.
Which, back on the L train, it quickly does. While all of this is going on, we’ve gone one stop: from Lorimer Street, towards Manhattan, to Bedford Avenue, and already, this tourist has reached breaking point.
“14TH STREET! 14TH STREET!” the irate tourist wheels around, turning their back on me and my fellow passengers’ assistance…literally. Now, they SLAMMED their hands on the doors, just in time for them to open, and darted out of the train… one stop away from Manhattan. From 14th Street. From FIVE DIFFERENT 14TH STREETS.
Some people don’t deserve the L train. Some people can’t handle the L train. The moral of the story is obviously this: we cannot take for granted that we are able to travel from Brooklyn to 14th Street. While it lasts.