Friday, June 27, 2003

Escape To Montauk

I did the fabled “Escape to Montauk” today. Of course, it’s about 140 degrees in the city, which makes it so much more pleasant. I walked to the Bay Shore station, a ten minute trip that the unpleasant heat and humidity made feel like swimming through a can of Campbell’s soup. The train was crisply air-conditioned, which is good – I want to make sure I work up a nice sinus infection before July 4. When I got to Manhattan, I did another 25 minute walk from Penn Station to the office. This is my standard daily exercise, and a key reason why I’ve lost eight ounces in the past year.

The “Escape to Montauk” works like this: I sum up how things are going in the office and calculate whether I should catch the 1:50 or the 4:06. The 1:50 is preferable because, well, two hours earlier. It’s also a bit less crowded, but its downside is that I have to sneak out right after lunch.

The 4:06 is handier because I can leave at 3:30, and I can get a lot more work out of the way first. So just before 3:30, I packed up the weekend’s articles and made my way to the Broadway 1/9 stop. Fortunately a train had just pulled out, so I got to wait on the platform for almost 10 minutes. There’s a simple formula for calculating how hot it is in a subway station: take the ambient temperature at street level and double it. So it’s about 184 degrees underground, with no breeze available save for the wind kicked up by the express trains that mock us as they fly past every two minutes.

Finally, the 1 train shows up. My car’s not air-conditioned. No problem, because it’s only one stop to Times Square. I slug my way out of there, blocked for ½ second by a woman with a carriage, and fly down the stairs to catch the 7. As luck would have it, the guy in front of me is taking in all the wonderful sights and smells of 42nd Street at his own pace, so by the time I’m able to break free of his block, the doors of the 7 close right in front of me. On other subways, you can stick your finger into the door as they’re closing and they’ll open up again, but you don’t want to challenge the 7. They’re the old Redbird cars, built in the 1950s before any of these weird modern ideas of “safety” or “amputation” were common, so those doors don’t open again once they slam shut on you.

I ran across the platform to the other 7 train and grabbed a seat. They leave about every 5 minutes, so I had plenty of time to adjust my seating to be under the blowing A/C on this car. Since they clean the filter every 50 years or so, the air has the sweet smell of all that has come before on that train. The train crowded up, and as the doors closed, The Sweaty Guy hopped on.

The Sweaty Guy hovered over me as the train headed towards Queens. At first, he just glistened unpleasantly, not unlike the baking sun that was causing his condition. But then the drips started. One of them glanced off my bag, and another missed just wide. He was working the subway pole like it was greased. Realizing the problem he was having, he reached deep and produced a napkin, which he used to mop his brow. The poor serviette was badly overmatched, and started to shred on his brow as we went under the East River. Small flecks started flaking off the napkin as well, creating a magical subway scene not unlike a souvenir snow globe.

No comments: