Monday, August 11, 2014


A tourist rides the subway.  A New York resident takes the train.  If you live in New York you learn that the subway system runs underground in Manhattan, but predominantly above-ground in the boroughs.  

The trains are lettered A-B-C-D-F-G-L-J-M-N-Q-R-S-W and numbered 1-2-3-4-5-6-7.with no particular rhyme or reason, and MTA occasionally changes out the routes and letters – particularly the M and J trains.  There’s usually a subway map in every station so it’s difficult to get lost  Not so difficult to get confused..

The most famous train – the A train – runs from Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn to Harlem.  Billy Strayhorn wrote Take the A Train in the time it took for him to ride from Brooklyn to Duke Ellington’s home in Harlem (Ellington added his name to the composition). You take the A train to get to Kennedy Airport and Aqueduct Racetrack. 

The F train, the one you can see in the opening of a 1970’s sitcom called Welcome Back Kotter,  runs from Queens through Manhattan then crosses under the East River to run above-ground in Brooklyn to Coney Island.  It’s a great way to see Brooklyn by train, because the F train has the highest trestle of any train in the NYC Transit system.  From that vantage you can see the rusty jungle of Brooklyn with its dozens of church spires and the infamous Gawanus Canal

My favorite train is/was the B train which is an express train (meaning it doesn’t stop at every stop along its route) and it only runs Monday thru Friday.  Its route is from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to the Upper West Side in Manhattan.  Usually the cars are older – instead of the yellow bucket seats facing forward/backward like the newer train cars, the cars of the B train have benches along the walls, leaving a lot more standing room in the middle.

For a while I used to meet friends in Manhattan for dinner on Thursdays.  I’d leave Brooklyn around 3 o’clock in the afternoon so I could get any errands and shopping done in Chinatown before dinner.  I always caught B train.

A few times I was on the B train at that hour on Thursday, a middle-aged, somewhat beefy, nicely-dressed couple boarded the train at the 7th Avenue stop.  And they were high.  Very high.  So high that it took them until the next stop to get themselves from the train door to a bench where they stood weaving until reaching a further stop where they finally sat down with a bit of a thump.  Which I’m sure they didn’t feel.

One day I was fascinated as the woman began a slow-motion search of her purse.  Eventually, she pulled out a lipstick case.  It took a long while for her to open it and wind out the lipstick part with her eyes almost closed the entire time.  Then she brought the lipstick to her open mouth, missed her upper lip entirely, so that the lipstick came to rest on her tongue where it lay until I got off the train in Manhattan.

I was filled with the question:  Where in the world were they going in that state?   

I have to admit, I tried to find them every Thursday afternoon, but it was hit and miss.  They may have skipped some Thursdays, taken an earlier or later train, or gotten into a different car than I was riding.  Too bad.

Post by Alana Cash


  1. Hilarious!
    What about the N and W trains?

  2. Hey thanks - I forgot about the N - rode it a lot. And, just overlooked the W because I hardly ever saw it.