Take the A Train

THE train was hurtling from Manhattan to Brooklyn when the man beside me suddenly addressed me: ‘Well, what do you think? Trump or Clinton?’

I was about to reply when he made it easier for me. ‘They’re both arseholes,’ he declared.

‘It’s a difficult choice,’ I ventured, ‘but it’s not one I have to make. I’m from Australia.’

Surprisingly, my new companion knew enough about Australia to observe that we weren’t that good at picking leaders: four Prime Ministers in five years. Quickly dismissing that thought, he returned to his theme, rattling off the reasons why neither Trump nor Clinton could be trusted in running a country in which the banks and big business were ripping the people off while immigrants were stealing the jobs.

We were exploring the shared belief that mainstream politicians were not delivering the answers when he suddenly announced: ‘Of course, I’m carrying, you know.’ He was a big man so I could tell he was carrying too much weight, but I soon realised that he meant he was carrying a gun.

I pointed out that it was illegal in New York, but he responded by saying that he wanted to get in first if it came to it. ‘You don’t need a gun,’ I said. ‘You’re big enough to sit on them and kill them. ‘

Fortunately, my station was the next stop and I got off.

It was just one of many little chats I was having while riding the New York subway. I remember the old days when it was a scary experience but now I was finding New York safe and clean and its residents friendly and helpful to a visitor.

In many cities, the buskers are outside the station or in the tunnels approaching the platform. In New York, they set up an entire band on the platform and others ride the subway with you. The A Train lived up to its jazz name when a trio of elderly gentlemen moved through the carriage singing gospel songs with a professionalism worthy of a paid performance. Of course, they did hold out the hat to earn a few dollars.

Then there was the writer who was selling his self-published book. He made three sales before the train hit the next station when he got off and presumably switched lines.

Back home in Australia, riding the train means a carriage full of commuters talking loudly into their phone or listening to music through the earpiece. Not so in New York. It’s an entertainment just to watch what everyone else is doing. And if that’s not enough, you can always strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to you. Just make sure he’s not carrying.

Len Horne

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