Kindness Is In The (Metro)Cards

, , | Hopeless | December 16, 2016

On my way into work my automatic-refill MetroCard simply will not function (“Please swipe again… Please swipe again….”). I miss a train because of this.

So, I try my backup MetroCard. It is 10 cents short of a full fare so I go to refill it. The machine says that it can’t refill my card AND won’t exchange it for a new one like it normally would do, so now I have two defunct cards and really don’t want to spend $1 to get a brand new card to fill up. (The fee is encourage people to use their cards until their expiration date; you get a new one for free if yours is expired.)

Now I’ve missed two trains. Luckily there is an actual human being stationed at the booth on the far end of the station — very rare in recent years — but he tells me that both cards are damaged and that the only way to get my money and a replacement card is to mail them in. So now I’m looking at missing a third train because I have to walk back to the machines AND I have to waste a dollar getting a new card. I know it’s just a dollar, but it’s the principle of the thing!

Then he says, “You’re on your way to work, right? Why don’t you just go through the gate and try to deal with this over your lunch hour?” And he lets me in for free! So now I’m late to work, but not as late as I would have been if I’d missed yet another train. Thank you, understanding MTA worker!!!

That night, I have to stay past nine pm at work and am finally heading home. Of course, I had no time over lunch to get a new card BUT I did find yet another backup MetroCard stashed away. Hooray! When I get to the subway station I see that the area before you get to the platform is packed and reeks of pot — I am very sensitive to smells so this is giving me a headache. A train comes in and a surprisingly huge number of people are trying to get through the turnstiles at once. When I finally get to swipe my card after being buffeted around by people going in all directions (I’m under 5′ tall; most people very much are not!), I find… that this backup one doesn’t work either.

Fighting my way back through the people I have now held up, and missing a train, of course, I go to the MetroCard vending machine and miraculously it works correctly and lets me exchange my apparently expired card for a new one AND to add money to it! I check it at the separate “check your card here” machine juuuust to be sure, just as another train comes in.

All is well so I again get in line to go through the turnstiles and behind me is the source of the pot smell: a somewhat disheveled young man. Now my eyes are stinging from the reek and I am decidedly grumpy. Eventually it’s my turn but I know all is well because the machines both told me it is. Then I see that the reason the lines are so long is that all the turnstiles are giving people trouble more often than not (“Please swipe again… Please swipe again… Go!… Please swipe again at this turnstile… Please swipe again…”).

Of course, mine is not one of the lucky ones. But then pot-guy says, from behind me with a friendly smile, “Here, use mine. I have a swipe!” I don’t want to take his money so I thank him and assure him of what the machines told me, that my new card does in fact work, and slide into another turnstile’s lane and try there… No luck. Pot guy says, “No, really, use mine!” still with a big smile on his face. We’ve already missed the second train but I cannot bear to fight backward through the crowd again so I accept gratefully and it works immediately. His card is the lucky charm!

I hand it back and… he gets “Please swipe again.” I feel terrible and told him so but without a care and with a smile and a wave he says, “No problem, man!” and slips back through the crowd toward the machines to see if he can improve his luck.

Thank you, mysterious pot-guy! You gave me a headache in one way but REALLY eased and even worse headache and let me finally get home.

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