It’s 7 p.m. on a steamy summer weekday and I’m on a platform in the Union Square subway station.
I need a 6 local train to take me to Spring Street in SoHo. While I wait, a half-empty downtown 4 express on the adjacent track pulls in. Then a half-empty downtown 5 express arrives right behind it. I look up the local track for my 6. Nada. Another 4 shows up. Then another 5.
That’s four express trains I can’t use, zipping through the station in about fifteen minutes.
Finally a packed 6 local pulls up. As I get on, the conductor announces that the train will be skipping several local stations — including mine.
In Voltaire’s novella “Candide,” the main characters, who have all suffered various misfortunes, ask the “best philosopher in Turkey” why there is so much affliction in the world. His response is: “When his highness sends a ship to Egypt, does he worry whether the mice on board are comfortable or not?” Or, in other words, in the grand scheme of things, the welfare of some groups isn’t important.
So I’d like to ask the Transit Authority pooh-bahs, whose grand scheme runs the trains, why are we, the local riders, the mice down here? I mean who else is on this ship anyway? Isn’t it the mice’s ship?
Oh, and there’s no downtown 6 local service at all below 14th Street on the weekends.
– Steven Doloff teaches literature and writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn
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