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New York Minute

The one thing on a subway that will always get my attention is a lost soul. I mean literally lost. Like the guy has no idea where he is going. This happens a lot on the A Train, because it runs express and pretty quickly takes a rube out of the comfort of Manhattan proper and deposits him at 125th St before he can even figure out what happened.

Being lost can be no big deal if you are one of those self-assured types who feel like they can warp reality to their own will. But it can also make you feel helpless – especially if you’re working against the clock and have bitten off more than you can chew.

Last night, a late teen, early twenties type, looking like a savvy city-chick, turned to her neighbor at 125th st and asked if the train was going to Roosevelt Island. That grabbed me right in the gut. Roosevelt Island? That’s not even close. Her neighbor didn’t speak English, so I pointed her to the map behind her and explained she was about to stop at 145th St.

A glazed look of confusion engulfed her. Another rider quickly noted that she could make it Roosevelt Island fairly easily if she hopped out at 145th, took a downtown B or D to Roc Center and then transferred to the F Train. She staggered off at 145th and the other rider and I both watched her turn in awkward circles on the platform. We made eye contact and we both knew the timely advice hadn’t made a dent.

[Photo Credit: Clara]

Categories:  Bronx Banter  New York Minute

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 9, 2011 10:07 am

Oh, man, this speaks to me, Jon. I feel that it is my civic duty to help those lost souls on the subway. It's almost a pathology for me. LOL

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 9, 2011 10:15 am

[1] yeah, as soon as you figure out the guy is lost, you take on a burden of responsibility. no way you can just let it go.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 9, 2011 10:20 am

Your story left a pit in my stomach! LOL

4 Raf   ~  Feb 9, 2011 12:49 pm

I can empathize, my cousin was a couple of weeks removed from Honduras, and she got lost in the subway system. This was before cellphones were prevalent, she was lost for a couple of hours.

I too feel it's my civic duty to help those lost on the subway and the metro-north. I'll give pointers as well; differences between uptown and downtown, which platforms to stand on and the Manhattan grid system.

Of course this applies to regular service, all bets are off on weekends and when MTA does track work.

5 thelarmis   ~  Feb 9, 2011 1:28 pm

i haven't lived in NY for basically more than half my life, at this point. i was never good with the subways. and was never really a fan.

i totally got lost once and ended up on 125th St. i remember calling my brother - from a payphone, of course! - at his old office on Houston. he freaked out about me telling him where i was. i was so lost, confused & naive. and yeah, sometimes being pointed in the right direction is still confusing! : ~

6 JLP   ~  Feb 9, 2011 1:54 pm

Oh man brotha I know that exact feeling, I try to go out of my way to help them lost souls. One time, okay, more then one time, I gave the wrong directions to one of these lost souls, I hopped off the train at the next station, ran across to the downtown side traveled back but she was gone when I arrived. I just got back from London last night, first time, their version of public transit, The Tube was so easy to use, I was really impressed. We know our system, but it can be nightmare for most, they need to make it easier.

7 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 9, 2011 2:37 pm

It's strange, more often than not I'll be walking down the street and a stranger will stop me and ask for directions. I've gotten so I anticipate it; the blank, sometimes overt confusion on their faces as they shuffle along, then seeing me, they swing around quickly to ask my help. I finally asked one why she felt so comfortable asking me and she responded that I have a "kind face"...

Dang, I guess I'm not much of a New Yorker after all >;)

8 hiscross   ~  Feb 9, 2011 4:18 pm

I used the Metro going to work in DC 5 times a week. I help people whenever they need it. When I use Amtrac to go the a Yankee game I use the Subway to get there once I get out of Penn Station. Love those rides.

9 Raf   ~  Feb 9, 2011 8:46 pm

[6] I don't know how easier they can make it, the system's pretty unwieldy. But I can't see things getting easier than color coded lines, which seem to be the norm all over.

10 Boatzilla   ~  Feb 10, 2011 2:05 am

The Tokyo Metro system is much bigger than NYC's and it's a lot easier to use.

I think the thing that always got me about the NY subway system, was how difficult it was to find out where you are "right now" while on the train. The huge spaghetti map is useless if you don't know where you are. Plus it's very hard to read.

What they ought to have (and forgive me if it's in place already. It's been 2 years since my last visit) is a map of only the line you are riding on and the lines it connects with. Then they need a continuous digital readout of the station you are leaving and the station coming up (they have this in Tokyo).

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