life in and around NYC is insane

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Mayor at War

Commuters tend to be creatures of habit.  Every morning I drive to the train station and park in the same section of the parking lot.  I know the train schedule (or rather, the rush hour schedule) by heart, and I know where to position myself on the platform while waiting for the train so that the doors open right in front of me.  When I get to Penn Station at night, I usually know which track my train will be on before it is posted and announced.

When you ride the train every day you start to notice yout fellow commuters.  Sometimes you find yourself talking to people you see every day-- your "platform buddies" and "train buddies".  People you talk to only because you share a commute.

One time, about 2 years ago, there was a problem in Penn Station.  I think there was a power outage in the East River tunnel, which meant no trains could enter or leave the station.  My first thought was to take the subway, the E train to Queens.  The E train has a stop in Penn, and also stops at the LIRR station in Jamaica.  I wanted to take the E to Jamaica and catch an LIRR train home from there.

Everyone else had the same idea.  You couldn't get anywhere near the subway station.  So my next idea was to leave Penn and walk over to 6th Avenue (excuse me, Avenue of the Americas) and take the F train to Jamaica.

So as I was making my way out of the station, a woman came up to me and told me she "knew" me, that we take the train from the same station.  She asked me how I was going to get home.  So we wound up taking the subway together.

We're not friends, really, but we greet each other and chat whenever we encounter each other on the train.

Which leads us to the Mayor.

I usually take a 7:20 train.  If I miss that train, the next westbound train is at 7:50.    The Mayor rides the later train, boarding several stops east of my station.  He's a gentleman in his mid to late 60's, I think, pudgy, balding, with a thick mustache.  He still wears a suit and tie to work.

He sits in the very first car of the train, at the very front of the car, right behind the engineer's station.  There are groups of seats that face each other.  Those seats are always occupied by the Mayor's friends  Over the years the members of this group have changed, but the Mayor is still there.  He presides over the conversation like a king holding court.  He is friends with the engineer and conductor as well.  The front end of the first car has always been a place of lively social gathering.

And therein lies the problem.

The LIRR recently instituted a "quiet car" program.  No cell phones, no music leaking out of headphones, hushed conversations only. It's pretty much voluntary and passenger-enforced.

During the afternoon rush hour you'll find the quiet car in the very last car of eastbound trains.

In the morning, it's the very first car of each westbound train.

The other morning, for the first time in a long time, I took the late train.  I boarded the first car with some friends, and we chose seats near the Mayor.  We were involved in conversation.

When the conductor reminded us that we were in the quiet car, we lowered our voices.

The Mayor became belligerent.  Called the quiet car concept "nonsense", and actually encouraged us to make noise.

I am afraid this is not going to end well.  I suspect that the next time I ride that train, the Mayor will have moved.

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