Unsung bhodisatva of the token booth

I take the six train uptown to work every morning, getting off at 23rd street. The train picks me up at Spring street almost empty, and stays that way through Bleecker and Astor Place. At 14th street, though, a giant rush of commuters gets on the train, rides one stop north, and disembarks en masse for a giant bottleneck at the 23rd street turnstiles. There’s jostling, pushing, muttered curses, and if it’s raining there’s a mad umbrella free-for-all.

The best way to handle the rush is to get up at Bleecker street after the doors close and stand facing the doors on the local side. That way, when the commuters pack in from the express side, you’re walled in facing the right direction, up against the door, ready to squirt out of the car like a watermelon seed. Additionaly, if you do this at the first door of the third subway car, you come out facing the service gate. The service gate is a hinged gate in the bars next to the turnstiles, which the token booth attendant can open to let strollers through. The one at 23rd street is broken; if you’re fast, you can nip out of the train, through the gate, and up the stairs five crucial seconds in front of everyone else. No shuffling! No jostling! It’s alee-alee-in-come-free until the MTA fixes the gate! Sometimes, when I go by, I like to look at the token booth clerk glowering as I dash up the stairs. Ha ha, look at the vanguard escaping the fray!

At least, that’s what I though until this morning, when I finally realized that the beeping sound I always heard in the split second before squirting out of the train and through the gate was the beeping noise made when the token booth clerk manually opens the gate. All this time, the clerk had been consciously creating a loophole to help fix the bottleneck! Chagrined, I looked over at the guy glowering at me and mouthed a “thank you!” He nodded in return.

Jeez, that’s got to be a parable for something.

2 responses to “Unsung bhodisatva of the token booth”

  1. How long did it take to figure out that the guy I was sneering at was actually helping me? W-a-a-ay too long, and it didn’t make me feel very smart, let me tell you!


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