I don’t drive. I have never learned how to and at the moment I do not plan to learn how. This means I depend on my feet (along with good music) and on public transportation-namely, the subway. The bus in NYC, because of the constant stop-and-go traffic, makes me nauseous. Subways and trains are modern-day marvels that have gotten their due respect in Europe and Japan but are not on the public consciousness in the United States. While in Japan, I fell in love with the Bullet Train-what a complete marvel that I was first introduced to while watching the Little Einsteins cartoon with my son. The bullet train, although a bit confusing and complicated in terms of schedules, was so smooth yet so fast.
During our Japan adventure we went from Kyoto to Tokyo on the bullet train. We looked at our ticket that told us where to stand on the platform. Their system is so efficient that they get you on board the train and into your seat by telling you where to first stand on the platform. It was such an odd experience to not be “sideswiped” on a crowded platform. The platform is an important part of the subway traveling experience that people oftentimes don’t consider. Look at what happened on How I Met Your Mother-where Ted meets his future wife (the mother) on the train platform while he sat despondent on the bench.
Subway platforms can serve to give people a literal platform on which to perform. In NYC certain subway platforms are mega hotspots for up-and-coming musicians. In the ‘90s there were tons of catfights over the cool platform spots. Things are a bit more orderly now and people actually register in a system to get a platform spot. Which, to tell you the truth, kind of takes away from the experience. In my opinion, Street/subway musicians should be put into cage fights a la MTV and may the best man or woman perform in their train station of choice.
Anyway, where am I going with this? Subway platforms carry the weight of the world and serve as a conduit to assess the state of said world. Platforms kind of scare me. I have this fear that there are these forces at work to try to push people onto the train tracks. Everytime I see someone peering out over the tracks trying to see if the train is coming, I get nervous. Have you see the footage of the woman pushing her baby carriage along the platform in Boston and then onto the tracks. She didn’t realize that there were train tracks there. Yup, that is a level of ignorance that is a bit scary. Lock that woman up at home. STAT!
This morning, I was actually quite frightened on the subway platform. Our train had arrived in Grand Central and we were piling out in a rushed manner and moving forward on the platform. People were trying to position themselves ahead of others and consequently squeezing by others in very tight openings. At that point the stationary train started to roll out. Those that were squeezing by were jolted back. This scenario reminded me of one of the all-time best episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street, whereby a guy who had been jogging and then went down into the train station was pushed just as the train was coming into the station and he got pinned between the train and the platform. He was alive but the whole episode was about how in a few hours he would die and they had to figure out who pushed him. If you haven’t seen that episode, or that show for that matter, go watch it. That scene, that episode has haunted me since I saw it. Just scared the crap out of me.
Now certain New York some subway platforms have ghost stories attached to them. Furthermore, there are tons of abandoned stations that are referred to as ghost stations-those that are no longer in active service. Although not in active service many of these ghost stations have an active protective role for the marginalized.
Platforms in Grand Central overall are assumed to be in some type of haunted state. Have you ever been in the Fulton Street stop downtown late at night? I have to tell you, that station creeps me out. The Fulton Street station has a series of underground passages to transfer from one subway line to another. I can never quite get that transfer right. The station is right near the World Trade Center and one can walk to Wall Street and the Seaport from there. That triangulation alone conjures up the image of many spirits abound. Years ago there was an exhibition came about ghosts in NYC called “tunnel visions” at the Whitney Museum. There have been other city-wide attempts to document through photography the existence of ghost in the tunnels and subway stations but photos of the underground have been mysteriously disappearing. Seriously. There appears to be some conspiracy at large to cover up the existence of ghosts in the underground. Don’t necessarily understand why. Ghosts would not be any weirder than the typical New Yorker nor any scarier than the ubiquitous subway rat.
So, on platforms I am extremely cautious but many people out there throw caution to the wind. Next time you are on the platform, keep your eyes and ears open, watch where you step and be careful to not spill that latte on me.