Description not direction
I have fond memories of traveling the subways in New York, strangely enough for an experience most people endure at best—dirt and grime, psychotic fellow travelers ever suspiciously eyed but never directly stared, street beggars with 99c mini-screwdrivers sets or just torrents of abuse to exchange for your patronage or otherwise, and bored, drowsy fellow travelers doing their best to avoid all of the above.
New York for me is almost a second home. I travel there twice a year—sometimes three—to attend Celebrations with Sri Chinmoy, large international gatherings of his students staged around the commemoration of special occasions, occasions of shared happiness and brotherly togetherness for all of us, spiritual progress as well.
For me, traveling the subway in New York, a noisy ride on the F-train for the hour long trip to Manhattan for shopping, and sometimes a very occasional trip with friends to the kind of expensive restaurant or café you would never go to back home, is a from where to where juxtaposition between the otherworldly bliss of hours spent in meditation with an underground encounter with humanity in all its aspects—the lowest to the highest, poorest and richest, seated together in a rattling, metal-cage; and yet perhaps a gap not so far, seated in body but spirit still somewhere else, wrapped within an iPod-cocooned bubble of meditative calm, there is some truth to the claim that meditation has no use if not practised in the here and now.
The following are conversations overheard by fellow passengers of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority system, instantly familiar to anyone who has had the "pleasure" of it's service.
Catching the F-train with f-riend
MTA lady on loudspeaker:
[Stops singing loudly] What? No, the speaker's not on. You can hear me? But it's not on. Huh? You can hear me, too? Damn.
—Union Street Station, Park Slope
MTA guy with microphone:
Please keep your eyes open—there is a large rat running around on the platform. Please keep your eyes open—large rat—very large.
—V Station, 51st St
MTA lady talking to no one visible:
You one-armed nuisance! You are really getting on my nerves!
—In front of Staten Island Ferry, Staten Island
Conductor: Fourth avenue.
Transfer here to the R train on the lower level. The time is 6:36. The score is five-four, Mets. Thank you for riding MTA New York City Transit.
—F stop, 4th Ave
And don't forget, you heard it here first: Yankees, five, Detroit, two. Mets... more than the other team. Anyone knows who the other team is, that's good. Mets gonna have more runs than the other team. Next stop, 34th street.
—Downtown A train
Woman on cell:
Well, I'm sorry if my commitment to the Mets is not all you had hoped it would be!
—2nd Ave & 82nd St
Girl ascending subway steps:
Did you know all these spots are gum? This entire subway station is constructed of chewing gum!
—Subway station, 14th & 7th
My head swung like a pendulum... I had a brain injury, but it's okay because the part of the brain that got injured—the doctors are unsure of its function.
My math teacher says that I should learn this stuff since it's going to be useful, but I told her, 'When I go to college, I'm majoring in Lacrosse.' The coach can hire a tutor for anything else they want me to do.
There's another local train directly behind this one. I would never lie to you.
—W train to Astoria
I'm like, so, you know, like, bad at, like... I'm really inarticulate.
And when he said to take out our Bibles, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know it was BYOB!
—18th & 10th
It's an old American name, like in the Bible.
—A train arriving at 59th St
Hippie on phone:
Don't worry about how much time you have—I read this book on string theory that says time is just a human construct and means nothing at all. [Pause] No, I won't be able to make it there on time.
—Waverly & Mercer
Guy #1: That's awesome.
Guy #2: What? That the subway comes out of the ground?
Guy #1: Yeah... because it's no longer the 'subway.' It's just the 'way.'
—125th & Broadway