I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly scared of the ‘revolving door’ turnstiles on the subway that envelop you completely as you push your way around into the real world once again. The exit I use at Carroll Gardens station gives me no option other than to enter the tiny swinging cage, unless I want to spend the night on the dingy platform that is. And each night as I give the bars a push, I feel the person behind me swing it faster than my not-so-little legs are expecting, threatening to twang me through 360 degrees into the unyielding metal gate on the other side.
But the fear is even greater when I’m entering the subway at 14th Street to make my way home. For a start there’s only one revolving turnstile, and everybody
queueslines up ‘patiently’ to use it, tutting mercilessly as each person gets to the front to swipe their Metrocard, only to remember that their card is in their purse buried somewhere at the bottom of their 120 litre rucksack7322 cubic inches backpack.
And then of course, there’s the fact that once in a while the swipe device decides not to work for every fifth commuter or so, leaving you repeatedly swiping and swiping as the muttering behind you turns into a cacophony of grunts and pffft’s.
Tonight was one such night. You can always tell it by the long line of people trailing all the way back up the steps and onto the street above. And sure enough, when I finally got close enough to the gate, a succession of disgruntled wannabe passengers stood holding their non-working cards, resentfully watching on as other commuters merrily swipe their way through and wondered what all the fuss was about.
So why does this make New York great? Well, clearly it doesn’t. It just makes it another failing of a system that has more flaws than a plan to rob Fort Knox using sixteen small rubber bands and a half-chewed eraser. What makes New York great is the Hasidic Jew who, having watched one man move aside to allow others through after unsuccessfully attempting to swipe his card fifteen or so times, swiped his own card to give the unlucky man access to the subway while everybody else just looked after themselves.
I’d have probably looked after myself too, if I’d reached the front of the queue and the unfortunate commuter was still standing there. Hopefully this random act of kindness, in a city where people are all too ready to focus on number one, will encourage me to act differently next time.
With any luck, any karmic bonus might even manifest itself in my fellow travellers ceasing to push me through the revolving exits at breakneck speeds. I won’t be banking on it though.