Wednesday, August 8

a cog in the machine

New York is a machine, on many levels. We all follow rules and expect certain things, from either the city itself or from our fellow New Yorkers. It may seem chaotic to those who haven't lived here, but we have very clear systems here, almost an etiquitte.

For example, when we ride the subway we (usually) step aside to let people get on and off. We move our cars so the street can be cleaned. We have complicated relationships with grocery shopping and schlepping that no one else can comprehend. (Dare I even broach that subject?) The way the city works keeps things moving. In exchange for our city manners, we expect certain things in return. From inside our ways and rules keep the busy city dependable and systematic.

The problem is, sometimes those systems break down. Like, the electricity goes out all over the city. Or a steam pipe explodes. Or maybe the public transportation employees go on strike. And then we, resourceful New Yorkers that we are, try our best to find a new system. We adapt.

Today was one such day. Our disaster? A thunderstorm.

This wasn't just a little lightning, a little thunder. No. This storm was a battle overhead, tearing down trees and ripping off roofs. Even Dinah was disturbed and curled herself next to my head. By the time I got up, at about 7am, the rain had stopped, but almost 3 inches had fallen in the prior hour and a half, and the subways were flooded.

I left the house at about 7:45, heading to Franklin Avenue subway. A crowd was gathered outside the station on their cell phones. Inside, another crowd listened to an MTA employee about subway delays. The 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains weren't running to Manhattan. I bumped into my neighbor, who suggested that we take the S to the A. We waited for the S for a while before he said he was going to take a cab.

I gave up and decided to walk to the Q, joining hundreds of other people on foot. Each station I passed was the same situation: groups of people looking confused, talking on their cell phones. The Q was also down. Rumor was that the D was running from Atlantic/Pacific, so with no other options, I walked down Flatbush to that station.

For those of you who don't know the geography of Brooklyn, the distance from Franklin Ave to Atlantic is about a mile and a half. It's downhill and really not so bad, except that today it was sort of like walking through a jungle. Very humid and, even at 8am, about 85 degrees. In any case, it wasn't much fun and I was tempted to pop into various stores along the way to cool off. Sweat was rolling off of my face and I could tell that my t-shirt was soaked where my backpack rested on my back. None of that really mattered anymore; I concentrated on the cold ice coffee that I would find for myself when I got to my destination.

Here is what I encountered at Atlantic Ave: Confusion, more heat, tighter crowds. The good thing was that the trains were indeed running there, and after a short wait I managed to pack myself into a D. Three stops later I was at my destination. The time? 9:30am.

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