Hanging Ourselves From The Straps

I was digging through my archives today when I ran across some entries from July of last year, slightly before we were even considering moving here. We were in town for the last Macworld Expo held at the Javits, and it was the trip during which we learned how to use the subway. Sure, we were merely going all of two or three stops on the same line every time, but hey, it was huge progress over when we were taxi-stricken.
A year and change later, and the subway is so firmly entrenched in my life that I feel strangely out of place riding in cars. I spent nine months nailing a very specific route down – which car to get on in the morning so I’d get off at Times Square right by the stairs, which path down to the 7 line to take for maximum efficiency, which stairwell would put me in front of which car so I’d be in front of which gate at the 23rd St. stop to minimize the commute – it was very specific, and very nerdy.
Now with the Cornell Medical School job, it’s slightly depressing that I now spend less time on the subway every morning than I do walking to and from it. I’m still finding tricks and shortcuts, and getting frustrated when others can’t pick up on them as well. (Example: 68th & Lexington. If you see a train has just let off and one side of the turnstiles are flooded with people exiting, go to the other side to swipe through. Don’t try to play chicken in the turnstiles.)
I’ll admit, I am a little sentimental about the subway. It’s one of the few unifying experiences for 99% of the city. Regardless of where you work or live, which lines you frequent or what times you ride, we all share the pain and occasional joy.
We grow dependent on the familiarities of the subway to keep our bearings after long days – in a constantly moving city, it relentlessly stays the same. The same conductors, ranging from overly enthusiastic to drunkenly incomprehensible; the same half-talented buskers, who either slaughter our favorites or; the same bums who insist they’ve been off drugs for the past n months and if we don’t have change, a smile will do. Ads for events of months prior and Dr. Z and his AMAZING NEW FRUIT ACID PEELS!; scratchiti on the windows that invokes deja vu; the unintentionally hilarious spanish injury lawyer ads with the phone number 1-800-MARGARITA. The teeth grinding when there’s a long delay in train movement; the little cheer of joy when we hear the train we’re on is going express and it would not cause us to miss our stop; the grumbling rush for the door when it would.
The emotional outpouring tonight is caused by the frightening regularity of news stories detailing possible back-to-back fare hikes and service cuts over the next two years by the MTA. We’re looking at a 20% increase in monthly Metrocard fares – after an 11% increase last year. 164 token booths would close, cleaning schedules would be slashed, bus service would be reduced. And most amazing of all? Even after rates go up and service decreases, it would have to happen again in 2006, by even more.
When I was living upstate, I felt that our area was economically deprived by the state in favor of the city – all the school districts had to constantly raise property taxes to balance out budget cuts from Albany. Now living in the city, I see that one portion of the state isn’t being favored over the other – it’s that neither are getting what they need. This is from a state government that year after year fails to get a budget passed in a timely manner.
As I currently pay federal, state, and city level income taxes, is it that unreasonable to expect some of that money to go towards the one municipal system I actually use?