austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And he changed for Jamaica Plain

I offer a touch of Singaporean psychology from the MRT system. The setting is the -- well, I guess I have to call it a turnstile. There's not really anything that turns; you tap your card and a plastic barrier slides out of the way. But there aren't really good specific alternatives, so I'll have to count `turnstile' as one of the many pieces of the English language sticking around past the loss of the literal meaning, like `dialing a phone number' or `album' or `plumbing'.

Anyway, at the Harbourfront MRT was a turnstile stuck open. Quite a few of the people getting off approached it, looked at the perfectly wide-open gate, and froze up, afraid to go through the perfectly open lane. There's a lane that's been taped off for repairs for a few weeks, mind you. But apparently it's just as easy to close a lane by leaving it open. Soon, though, a teenager approached the suspicious-looking turnstile, tapped his card -- the screen gave him a low-balance warning -- and he went through. Another teen with him looked at this, tapped his hand -- no card -- on the reader and ran through before, finally, the turnstile closed.

I grant that it's necessary for anyone's mental health to occasionally feel like you're getting away with something. Probably this is why I sign the wrong date to documents. But if I'm not mistaken, leaving the MRT without tapping your card means you'll be charged the maximum possible fare based on where you boarded, so that as meaningless adolescent acts of rebellion go ... it's better than doing something really stupid, but it still falls short of ideal.

You know, since Charlie's wife could slip him a nickel just as easily as she could pass him a sandwich, I have to wonder what it is Charlie does that so annoys his wife, sister, other sibling, and friends they're exploiting the chance of him being stuck on the MTA. On the other hand, it has to be said he's not trying very hard to get off, since he could probably get a nickel from a lot of people on the subway, particularly if he had a fresh sandwich to sell. He's got to be avoiding many good chances to go home, avoiding his wife, siblings, and friends as surely as they're avoiding him. I think we have to conclude there's a severely dysfunctional relationship at the heart of that peppy campaign song.

Trivia: Manhattan's original, 1871, Grand Central Station was built for the Delaware & Hudson, the New York & Harlem, and the Hartford & New Haven rail roads. Source: The New Haven Railroad, John L Weller.

Currently Reading: In Quest of Spices, Sonia E Howe.


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