Perception Shift – Subway

Conductors change shifts at the Times Square 7 train subway stop that I take home. The conductor exiting this first evening had a body of a retired, but in-shape, defensive lineman and long dredlocks. The guy taking his spot looked like he had spent too much time under ground; pale and flabby, he’d passed away the wait time by the escalator on the platform with his finger deep inside his nose. I had been sickened but tried to feel sympathetic. Maybe he was catching the same cold as the one going around my office. Earlier I had a meeting with a guy whose nose was raw and pussy from running. My stomach turned despite wanting to feel compassion. Same pattern?

In any case the perception shift occurred for me when the conductors changed shifts.

I scampered in when the train doors opened (last stop the direction they’d been heading), and snagged my favorite seat, a corner, by the door. Easy exit. The door to the conductor’s compartment swung open and out swung the occupant. The big guy said jovially to his relief, “She’s all yours. Bring her back in one piece, okay?” and laughed deeply, good-heartedly, with paternalism towards his ward, the train, and, smiling, strode out onto the platform.

At that moment the role of conductor sudden expanded for me from a guy in a small space standing on a train to a ship’s captain, responsible for a huge piece of equipment, sailing her above Queens or diving deep below the city. Like a ship’s captain, they look after us, the passengers, minding our safety, encouraging us to stand clear of the doors, scolding us when we don’t.

Previously I had thought of the conductor role in a smaller way, as an almost mean bureaucrat. More the pale flabby guy than the engineer.

Then again today the door slid open and another athletic conductor called out to a passenger, bemused.

“You didn’t trust me about the diamond train,” he said to passengers, grinning. We are aboard a train marked “local” by a green lighted circle.

“Well we wanted to be sure the train stopped there,” they replied, in a bit of a surly tone.

The conductor shrugged, and with a laugh said, merrily, “Well maybe *I* won’t stop there!” I chortled and he glanced at me, eyes sparkling, “Kidding!” and slid the door shut.

The passengers were like me, not realizing they are on the enormous version of Thomas the Train. They thought the guy announcing stops might not know whether he stopped at their destination or not. They didn’t realize he is…The Conductor.

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