The Subway: A play in three acts

Posted on
Dec 8, 2009
Posted in: Random Musings


I live in Seattle, a town that, despite its growing size, is seriously lacking in the public transportation department. The absurdity of it almost sounds invented: we actually have an underground dug out already (a result of some serious city planning mistakes made a hundred or so years ago). Rumor has it that decades ago, the city laid down tracks for a subway system. The problem? They were the wrong sized tracks.  They didn’t fit the subway cars, or some nonsense like that (I think I originally heard this story from one of the guides on the Underground Tour, and couldn’t find any supporting evidence online, so who knows …).

We’ve not got a lightrail system which will (theoretically) take people from north Seattle all the way down to the airport and back. This sounds so magical and unlikely that I’ve also started telling people that riding on it will cure acne and give you rock-hard abs, and might just get you laid, to boot. Being married, I have no need for the thing.

I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about our lack of a subway. It seems to separate the Metropolises from the Smallvilles. A subway makes a city. Things happen on a subway. And many, many things happen on the New York Subway.

Act 1: The Violent

On the early morning hours of November 26th, an argument over a seat led one man to stab another passenger to death on the D train. There were roughly 30 passengers on board, four of them photography students. One snapped photos with her cell phone camera. People rushing to get out of the murderer’s way, the dying man stumbling through the car, puddles of his blood on the floor.

What scares me so much about the event is how … accessible it is. It’s so easy to hop on a subway. To sit in a chair. To argue with someone in New York. So it reasons that it must be easy to be murdered, too. I sincerely hope that’s not the case.

Act 2: The Erotic

Where there’s violence, there’s sex. In this case, quite literally, as both can be found on the subway. A group of girls won $10,000 for taking on a dare to do some pole-dancing  … in a subway car. In theory, I appreciate their chutzpa. And their flexibility. I just don’t appreciate it as much as their fellow passengers, two of whom admitted to missing their stop so they could stay and watch.

Act 3: The Muppets

From the Sesame Street of yore, back when Cookie Monster ate cookies and Elmo was but a speck of red lint in someone’s eye. True to it’s New York roots, the show’s characters try and find fun on the subway, admist the dangers of the big city (“You might lose your purse, or you might lose something worse, on the subway!”). While this made me realize that Sesame Street has changed over the years, the reputation of New York’s underground, in some respects, has not.

The moral of it all? Subways might just be a microcosm for life and death in the big city. Full of the same dangers and temptations, full of the same excitement and anticipation. And, occasionally, full of muppets, too.


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