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They Even Said, “Please.” What More Do You Want?

, , , , | Friendly | November 12, 2022

My husband and I are racing to get to a movie in time, which requires hopping off one subway line and getting to another a couple of blocks away. We reach the station. It’s a small one with just one entrance in sight: an opening mid-sidewalk with a staircase going down.

It’s completely clogged with waiting people, right up to the top of the stairs. These things happen, so we stand on the landing and wait for the logjam to clear. It doesn’t. A few more people arrive and wait behind us on the sidewalk as minutes go by with no movement.

People start murmuring to each other: “Is there a fire?” “Are the police down there?” The people on the stairs don’t join in or say what they see or generally act as if anyone’s behind them; they just stand there and wait.

At some point, I get a clear glimpse to the bottom and see the horrible truth: this is one big group of tourists, all waiting for the one member at the bottom who’s paying their fare at the Metrocard machine by buying one card about twenty-five times. 

People in New York are pretty nice, actually — it’s not a huge tourism spot for nothing — but the one grave sin you can commit as a visitor is to block their way. Stopping where you are on a narrow sidewalk to look at a map for a minute is kind of like doing the same in the road in your car. And blocking an entire subway entrance to use it as a waiting room is unheard of. Almost before I realize it, years of childhood vocal training come out with the power of exasperation, and I bellow:


The entire group jumps and then immediately snaps into a line along one edge, which is so surprising it’s almost funny; they were great at making it look like there was no room to spare. But suddenly, the stairs are accessible to all, and we can go in…

…and meet the Metrocard buyer at the bottom, who apparently is just as startled as the rest of her group, and embarrassed to boot. She decides to save face.

Woman: “You don’t have to be rude about it.”

Then, she switched to saying, “Love you, we love you!” to those passing, with the most deliberately phony sickly-sweet tone and smile she could muster. This proved (obviously) that she was the nice one around here. I had never seen someone act this childishly to my face, and I haven’t since. 

I wanted to stick around for another minute and ask her things like why “could you please move” was too harsh for her and whether they had public staircases where she came from. My husband wanted to know why had she decided to take the subway in flip-flops. But after this? We were not missing that movie.

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