Life in New York post-9/11 is an asymptotic approach to What It Was Like Before. In this way, terrorism is like sad love broken — weeks can pass and you won’t think of her, and then something swims up to remind you, and you say to yourself, “Damn. I thought I was past this.”
For weeks and months I forget all about our Prime Target status until I run up against heavy weapons or deployed rapid response teams or subway bag searches (for the record, this is one of the worst ideas ever: not only inconvenient and certainly illegal, but also annoying, pointless and unlikely to either deter or preserve), and when I do I’m jostled back off center again.
Monday in point: I’m on my way to work today, coming in early so I can polish a bit before springing my this-afternoon-off idea on them without warning. Down the Borough Hall station a train blats its horn as it trundles in, which is New York code for I’m-not-stopping-you’re-SOL. The next train through, this one bound the other direction into Brooklyn, does the same, and the one after that too.
Borough Hall is a major station; it’s under the Brooklyn court buildings, and it knots several major train lines (2 3 4 5 R M and occasionally N) into a long rambly set of tracks and platforms. It’s under what used to be the Brooklyn wing of government, back when Brooklyn was its own municipality (and the 4th largest city in America), and next to the main Brooklyn branch of the Post Office. When yet another train crawls through honking away without stopping, I am — how to put it — fucking livid. And I have not had coffee yet.
Eventually they make an announcement that there is a “situation” at Borough Hall. There sure is: the trains aren’t stopping. “I’ll situation you,” we think. I stomp up the 2 3 platform to try the R, fuming so hot I leave scorched brimstone footprint-shaped puddles in my wake. At the top of the connecting stairs a cop is shooing people out to the street. He looks a little like Ben Affleck, but that’s not his fault.
“Well can I get a transfer?” one reasonable gent asks, nonplussed. The cop pauses for a second, and for the first time in a long time we hear the real voice of authority, not the voice of niggly don’t-stand-there and stop-doing-that. “Look sir,” he says, firm. “I am trying to help you out here. You can not go back into this station. There are no transfers. There are no trains. This is an emergency. We are evacuating the area. Now please GET OUT OF THE SUBWAY and go up to the street.”
There’s really no arguing with that. (Continued in The Lunchbox that Roared)