Friday, June 15, 2007

NYC Mass Transit Wants You to Cry Them a River

This evening was the first time I have been really pissed off at the city. Well, not so much the city. Just its mass transit system. As a Southerner with fading memories of the wide open roads and interstates of my former life, it is still so crazy to me that I can be less than 10 miles away from a destination, and I cannot get there in a decent amount of time.

I missed my 6:26 p.m. flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the sporadic incompetence of the New York City bus system. After a fresh manicure and pedicure at a nail salon on 125th Street, I was patiently waiting at the M-60 bus stop near Fifth Avenue at 4:45 p.m. Within the next 45 minutes, only one M-60 bus would arrive, and it was nearly full. I waited as an older woman boarded the bus, then I stepped aside to let a disabled man enter the bus ahead of me. But before I could lug my suitcase up the steps behind him, the driver shut the doors and waved the rest of us back to the curb.

I watched at least half a dozen of each M-100, M-101 and BX-15 buses go by - none en route to my Point B. As time wound down, I attempted to hail taxi cabs. If you ever want to feel completely helpless, stand at a busy intersection at rush hour and try to catch a cab when you are intensely anxious. I finally spotted an available cab, but the driver asked me where I wanted to go,and then apologized that he could not take me there and drove away.

At 6 p.m., still on a sidewalk in Harlem, I called Delta Airlines to discuss my options. No more flights to Charlotte today. Thus, no $25 flight change fee within the 3-hour, same-day flight window. My only choice was to pay a $50 ticket reissue fee plus the difference in airfare. Bummer.

Just as I was preparing to call Tosha and apologize for not being able to make it to her wedding tomorrow (at least we had fun in Miami), a saving grace: The 6:26 p.m. flight was experiencing a 20-minute delay so - though I still couldn't make check-in - I could change my flight to the following day at no cost. I'm not sure how that worked exactly, but I didn't question it.

As I dragged my suitcase back to my apartment, I bitterly thought of all the things I'd tell the MTA city bus system if I felt like they'd ever care to listen:
1) It makes no sense for the greater majority to have a bus stop on every block. I can often watch a pedestrian pace the bus for at least five avenues. Can't we do every other block and cut the stops in half?
2) Run more M-60 buses during rush hour; then again, I've never previously stood at an M-60 bus stop for more than 15 minutes.
3) Provide customer satisfaction training and anger management courses for drivers.
4) Buses, pedicabs and taxis should have their own lane to share on major avenues and cross streets since mass transit is serving higher volumes of people and could be an incentive to use public transportation and lead a greener life. From where I stood at the bus stop, I watched an M-101 bus take over five minutes to get a block and a half in gridlock traffic.
5) It makes no sense that I was 5.91 miles away from La Guardia (according to, and I could not get to the airport in 90 minutes.
6) Going back to the first bullet point, I believe that having a bus stop on every block is contributing to urban obesity.
7) [Bleep], [Bleep], [Bleep] and [Bleep], [Bleep], [Bleepity-Bleep-Bleep]!!!

I continued to feel more and more enraged as I waited for an M-100 bus to take me back to Amsterdam, and I watched four airport-bound M-60 buses roll by. Of course. There they were. And just when I thought my day couldn't get worse, I noticed a woman walking down the street with four screaming kids. And across the street was a man in a wheel chair playing cards with the end of his pants tied in a knot at the end of his amputated leg. And then I saw a homeless man crouched in a sheltered entryway. And, of course, as if scripted in a movie, there was an ad on the side of the bus stop for the former smoker with the hole in his neck stating, "Nothing will ever be the same ... not even the little things."

New York City will do that to you. It'll back you into your own little corner and flick you in the forehead with its middle finger or even slap you around a bit until you start to feel sorry for yourself, and then it'll get in your face and remind you that it could always be worse. And then the little voice in my head added its own two cents: "What? You think the world revolves around you and when you step out of a nail salon? Stop being a whiny bitch."

But before I completely end my whiny rant: Here I sit in Harlem when I should be getting ready to go out in the Queen City with Monique, Ana and Kelli. They've been dancing for the NBA for three years so I know they're out somewhere right now rolling V.I.P. style. I've never had a dull night with them, and as I broke the bad news, the text messages ensued:
"Slacker! We had the evening all planned out!"
"I know. Moki told me. You are in BIG TROUBLE! Hurry up and get here."

Later Kelli left me the funniest voicemail message I have received in quite awhile. And for the first time, I missed the South. Or maybe I just miss my girls. And now for the irony: I am stuck in New York for the night, and I don't want to be here.

And now for the reality: It could always be worse.


Todd said...

I believe that having a bus stop on every block is contributing to urban obesity.

And obesity leads to people taking up more then one seat, which leads to you being late for your flight.

I also recently missed a flight because the shuttle took a ridiculous amount of time to go from Grand Central to JFK. It cost us $200 bucks total to rebook.

Anonymous said...

West Harlem, I have been living there since the summer of 2004.

I wish I can move out of there by the time I graduate or soon after I graduate from college, and be able to have my own place (buying and owning) in somewhere nice on Manhattan.