Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pier 63 Sampler & The Helpful Token Booth Clerk (no, fo'real!)

Here’s Manhattan Kayak Company getting ready for a tour on a beautiful summer evening in New York City. The guy with the helmet and the "8" on his pfd is with New York Kayak Polo; the boat who's red-white&black stern you can just see behind him is a 6-man outrigger canoe, one of the New York Outrigger fleet, and the red and yellow open boat in the water behind the double is a Hammerhead surfski racing boat & is being paddled by Stefani Jackenthal, who's very cool & makes me look like a couch potato. The Big G - you can just see the name on the stern of the green & white boat in the background - is a retired police launch that a group has bought & renovated. I think I like this shot so much because it shows such a solid little subset of all the kinds of water-related "stuffs" that go on at Pier 63.

That was Tuesday night, last week to be precise. That was a good night out there! We've had a lot of those lately.

I hope you’ll accept this in lieu of the “real post” I said I’d do tonight. I’m just too tired to be coherent because of last night’s track fire. One of the things I really like about living in New York is that I don’t have to own a car at all – I just use public transportation, or hoof it if it’s nice. I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist – environmentally aware, yes, but not quite good enough to claim the actual title of “environmentalist” - but I figure I get a whole lot of eco-karma points for that. However, every now & then the system gets fouled up that does make for a loooooong trip (of course that happens with cars, too, right?).

Long story short about the "helpful token booth clerk" to whom I referred - I know that that sounds like a COMPLETE oxymoron - at least to NYC denizens - passengers ended up getting kicked off express trains at Canal Street last night and sent upstairs to the local track where the express trains were supposed to have been switched. After having worked both sails, I had enough tip money to take a cab home, but since I live pretty far out in Brooklyn that would've eaten an irritatingly large chunk of the evening's net. I decided to wait until 12:15 (we got kicked off the other train at 11:45). 12:15 arrived but no train - but what I found particularly irritating was that there were no announcements, leaving that annoying sense that there was a chance that if I left the station, an express train could turn up in 2 minutes & I would be wasting my cab fare. I actually tried to call the station manager's line (posted where I could see it from a pay phone) to leave an angry message about that but the voicemail was full (I was clearly not the first person who had that idea) so I decided to actually make a detour on my way out expressly (ha ha) for the purpose of saying something to an MTA person.

Not that I expected any satisfaction - usually yelling at token booth clerks is an excercise in frustration - they are securely encased in steel and bulletproof glass and generally don't care; and if they do care there's not usually anything they can do about it. I'll admit it, I just wanted the satisfaction of venting my irritation at being left totally clueless for 35 minutes at an actual human representative of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. That was all - I fully planned to go get a cab after getting that all off my chest.

Well, I marched up to the booth & started in with a completely unpunctuated diatribe - went something like this:

"WHERE is the TRAIN we have been waiting for THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES and there's NO TRAIN and they kicked us off the Q train and told us to come upstairs and wait on the local track but there's NO TRAIN and there hasn't been one single announcement about WHY and it's FINE if there aren't any trains but if there aren't any trains you should at least TELL us whether there's going to be a train or NOT so we can decide what to do and...oh...huh?? really???!!!...thank you!"

See, I was totally ready for anything from complete disinterest to outright hostility but the guy totally took the wind out of my sails by actually listening to what I was saying, looking concerned, saying "Let me see what I can find out" and WHOA - picking up the phone! I actually let out one more little half-hearted sputter - "I mean, it doesn't matter if the train's 5 minutes away or 20 minutes away, just TELL US" - and then sort of drifted back over to the local track & just as I got there there was an announcement that ALL trains were running were now running on the EXPRESS track - which was where we'd been kicked off the train 40 minutes earlier. I wonder, if that guy actually hadn't actually taken the initiative to look into it, or if I hadn't told him, how long that crowd would've been left sweltering on the local track - which had been shut down for track work at midnight.

So every single other person was pissed off. Me, I was thinking "Way to go, token booth man!". I couldn't get back out to the booth to thank him (I'd already gone out to chew him out & then swiped my MetroCard to get back in, and once you swipe an unlimited-use card like I use you can't swipe it again at the same station for 20 minutes or so - precaution against people sharing the cards to ride the train at the same time - if I want to loan my metrocard to a friend for a day, that's fine, but if my friend & I are taking the train together the MTA would prefer that we both actually pay) but felt bad that I hadn't waited to do so & just wandered off while he was making the call, but I did go to the turnstile by the booth & jumped up & down & waved until the guy saw me, then gave him a big thumbs up and an ear to ear grin.

Boy, the MTA should have more people like that guy. How refreshing.

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