A Delay on the A

For the first time in a month I subwayed. I was going from Brooklyn to midtown to hit the gym and then reverse all health gains with a burger & beer lunch with a former co-worker.

Normally I’d bike, but instead of riding 40 minutes in bone-soaking rain, I tried the subway and saved my energy for Karen. When I worked in midtown, I’d ritually take her Body Pump and then Pilates class at New York Sports Club every Monday when I pushed the boundaries of my core strength and an acceptable lunch break. She made my Mondays awesome.

But this Monday was different. Not used to passive commuting, I immediately grew impatient. Instead of walking three minutes to a Citi Bike station and biking seven minutes over the Manhattan Bridge, I walked 10 minutes to Jay Street-MetroTech station and waited for a Manhattan-bound A train. By comparison, after 10 minutes on a bike I'd be moving swiftly up Allen Street through the Lower East Side.

On board I quickly remembered why I didn't miss the train—even in the rain. The train smelled. The strangers on it smelled. Some talked loudly, forcing me to listen. I jammed in earbuds and leaned on the door so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone or handle any poles.

After West 4th Street, the train slowed to a stop. Train traffic ahead of us and sorry for the inconvenience, the motorman said. We waited. Train ahead of us is having mechanical problems, sorry for the inconvenience, the motorman said. Uptown trains breezed by us on the local track.

People’s eyes circled around the car wishfully thinking someone would stand up and fix the problem. Everyone had places to go.

We started moving, but our speed slowed to a crawl until a crashing KAAA-BOOM! shook the train, halting it in its tracks. Caught off guard, people fell over one other from the impact, which left the carriage tilted to one side.

“Attention ladies and gentlemen,” crackled a voice on the intercom. “This train is not in customer service. I repeat, this train is no longer in customer service. Please exit through the front car.”

Frazzled passengers reluctantly rose to their feet, and started shuffling forward like lemmings. The train ahead of us had been stuck at 14th Street, and we nudged it forward to get a door to platform.

Of course I had positioned myself in the last car to be closer to the exit I needed at 42 Street. I walked through the entire train, holding doors open between cars because gravity would slam them shut. The doors were heavy for me to open; older ladies with makeshift grocery bag shower caps didn’t have a chance.

I stepped off the train and crossed the platform to wait for another one. Body Pump had already begun and there would be no floor space to join in progress. I cursed the rain for driving me underground, and commiserated with a burger and beer.

Some friends think I'm crazy for biking around the city, but I think they're crazier for relying on the train.