Since I moved from the bus to the subway I’ve missed watching the street go by, but there is a whole new show to watch. As the subway trains are so broad – no banging your head on the curved roof by the door like the tubes – there’s nearly always room enough to watch what’s going on. And now the weather has turned, the air conditioning is soooo welcome. So most journeys I make, I get to sit down, and watch the other customers – surepticiously of course, it’s not THAT different from the tube!

On Sunday I was on the half-busy train and a couple got on. They were the most good-looking pair in that carriage, and, having glanced around to check out the opposition, didn’t they know it. She, tall, slim, brown-skinned, skin-tight black skirt and vest, high platforms, and wild black hair; he, tall, slim, carefully ripped jeans and dishevelled dress shirt, a little too small so his washboard stomach was revealed every so often. For the five stops they were on the train they did this sort of performance, which just said: ‘look at us!’ They kissed, they swung around the metal poles, they fell into each others arms as the train jerked and swayed – it was so ostensibly casual, and so actually manufactured, I couldn’t help but smile.

This morning three teenage girls were gaggled together in the centre of the carriage – one white, one Spanish-looking, one black. They must have been 14 but still had that gangly coltish look. One had braces and glasses, but as trendy as you like - no longer are these things the sign of geekdomn! She had a huge rucksag on her back, practically the same size as she was, with three tin badges pinned on – this I remember from my 14-year-old days – but one of hers said ‘I heart vampires’ – a little reminder that this is 2011!

Tonight, I took the train back up to Harlem – a slightly different preposition from the well-mannered 7 train on the green line that I’ve been travelling on up to now, up and down the East side! As the express sped along, people sitting with closed eyes, tired after a long day, three 14 year old black boys came through to our carriage. With surprising volume, one commanded: ‘Listen up people, it’s SHOW time’, while another with perfect timing countered: ‘WHAT time is it?’, to a repy from the first: ‘ It’s SHOW time’. They then proceeded to put on a show, a show of rap and break-dancing – not that easy on a speeding wobbling train – for around three minutes, before collecting tips that anyone felt like handing out. I was the only person actually watching them, as far as I could see - I guess maybe they work that train quite often! But they collected a few dollars.

Another thing that tickles me about the subway are the announcements. On the tubes, in really old stations you sometimes still get the bark “MIND THE GAP, MIND THE GAP”. On the tourist routes you get the beautifully spoken Radio Four announcer-style woman telling you the name of the next station – the only person who can pronounce Marylebone correctly - “the next station is, Marlybone”, she says in her cut glass tones, “Please, mind the gap, between the train, and the station.”

Here, there is a terribly jolly sounding man. “The NEXT station is fordee-second street Graaand Central Station”, he proclaims, sounding like he’d really like a drum roll. Then, slightly more soberly: “Ladees and genlemen, we are delayed because of train traffic ahead” – which is nice, but really, what else could be delaying us? And then back to the jolly tone – “Staand clear of the closing dooors pleeease”. Sometimes however, he turns all school-masterly and says “Congestion is NO excuse for inappropriate behaviour – if YOU think you have been the victim of an assult please contact a member of staff” – or something like that….

 

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