When I was growing up, one of my most favorite beach “casino” games was the one with all the quarters. Seeing all those shiny coins waiting to drop off that ninety-degree angle and fall with a clink into the metal cup before me was too much for me to avoid. I would beg my parents for dollars, and quarters and more dollars just to see if MY COIN, the metal body I dropped in, would be the one to push them all over the edge. I rarely ever got anything more than a dollar in return, but over the years I must have dropped hundreds of quarters into those machines just hoping I’d eventually knock a bunch off and make room for more.
Every weekday, I take the L train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I get off at 14th Street, Union Square and then hop on the 4/5/6 headed uptown. Most of the time, I get to work in 20-30 minutes just because the 4 Express runs from 14th to Grand Central which is my stop. But on occasion, the 4/5/6 gets constipated, anyone going anywhere from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way along the western side of Manhattan is pretty much screwed. Rest assured, however, most of any office will arrive late, that’s many people use that line.
Usually, it’s not so bad. The 4/5/6 runs nearly every 4 minutes—sometimes even more often. So getting to work isn’t usually a problem. However, on the days where something goes wrong, Union Square is an absolute mess.
For example, take the very first day I worked at the new office. I left a little before 8:30 leaving me ample time to get to work by 9:30. Plus, I really wanted to test just how long this commute would take me should I get the full time job. The only other time I had followed the route was during the afternoon on the day of my interview, and trains run differently when it’s not rushhour. But on the morning of my first day, even the L was even on its best behavior; things were looking good. That is, up until I hit Union Square.
The platform of the 4/5/6 train was JAMMED packed with human sardines. It was so crowded, the NYPD were forced to block all those coming downstairs from above. Somehow, I managed to get down before this happen, not my experience on the platform was more pleasant by any means. You see, the platform at Union Square running alongside the 4/5/6 is thinner than most trains’ platforms. While this makes little to no sense to me given it’s a major artery for most commuters, that’s the way it is. Maybe that’s why they run so frequently. Who’s to know? So as I stood there there, behind scads of tightly packed people, with another pack of humans directly behind me, asses touching asses, as they waited on the local track, I couldn’t help but picture what would happen should the NYPD not show up to stop the flow of people.
One might now consider me a waiting quarter. And should another coin choose to disobey the NYPD on a day where we’re backed up in rows of five or more on the platform of the 4/5/6, I might surely meet my demise in 2 inches of some of the most toxic, trashy dumpster juice known to man.