As any veteran New York City subway rider knows, whenever a train packed with a horde of passengers pulls into a station, but one car mysteriously has both space and seats, that’s a neon red flag if it’s a hot day in the middle of summer. That space and those empty seats are the obvious giveaway that the air conditioning in that particular car is dead on arrival. When the doors open, the riders eager to escape the sauna of the sweltering subway platform into a cool train enter collectively hopeful. Even I have done this, and I’ve been riding those rails so long, I still remember what it was like when air-con on subway trains was not the norm.
To put it succinctly, it was rolling hell.
So like lambs to the slaughter we enter a train that feels like a barbecue pit. There are loud shouts and soft murmurs of contempt for this situation. The more Type A types (myself included) are mute. We simply clamor to open the doors in-between cars that will lead us to the chill in the air we crave in the next car, even if it means breaking subway rules. Passengers are not supposed to go from one car into another via those doors, but in this case, many of us cannot flout the rules quick enough. Hey, we’re veteran subway riders and we also happen to have sweat trickling down our backs
This car was particularly cruel for the doors between cars were locked! That generated more frustration, and I announced to a fellow steamed rider:
Me: This is a health hazard! I’m about to spontaneously combust!
She chuckled at me in shared sympathy and then proceeded to take a step backward. We were in effect being held hostage in this tube of stagnant hot air until the next stop when we could file out and make a beeline for the oasis of the next car. As I charged out the door, I warned an overheated business-guy in a suit that was about to enter:
Me: It’s Dante’s Inferno in there!
He got the message.
Overheated Business-guy in Suit: I’m following you!
He raced behind me and entered the next car that offered the welcome cool air we sought. He and I exchanged the New Yorker nod of “thanks” and “you’re welcome” (I’m old school, I don’t say, “no problem”) and then returned to our own focus and had nothing further to do with each other. Also very New Yorker-like.
Maybe you should have taken a taxi?
Ha! If only I could afford to, James …
Oh, sorry, I got caught up in an ethnocentric view of life.