Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dispatch from the B61

I love the B61. I am riding it from Carroll Gardens to South Williamsburg. My day job--that would be the one where we teach kids critical thinking skills through interaction with visual art--is contemplating a location change. Rather, we are being forced to location-change due to rising rents. (New York City, I love you; Landlords, eat shit and die.) So, as a tester-outer, a kind of see-how-shitty-this-actually-would-be, Nick and I are meeting to look at the possible space on South 6th Street--a lovely 4th floor corner office--and ask probably tedious questions of the current tenant. "Does this sun get too hot by this window?" "What about the radiator?" "Is it loud when the subway goes past?"

As we saunter around the chunky lucite furniture and fabulous Eames conference room chairs--the office currently belongs to a set dresser/prop house--she answers all the questions politely, encouragingly, as if she herself were the agent getting the commission. "The light is warm, but in the winter you'll really love it." I even feel the need to ask about where the electrical outlets are, and she points, "All that is plugged in back there, you just can't see it." Somehow this makes me feel secure. About the trains going by on the Williamsburg Bridge--fifty feet from the window--she says, "You know, it's New York, the subway is just there and you get used to it." This made me think again of the bus. What would it be like, I thought, to only take the subway one or two times a week, which is a distinct possibility, should things go down this path.

If you take the bus, you move at a more appropriate speed--only walking, which is clearly not an option at this distance, provides a more natural pace. The bus allows time to notice the sort of things I like to notice, or can't help but notice: the textures of the trash heaped up by the corner, the kind of buttons on the cuffs of the lady standing by the curb.

I could also decide to become a person who bikes from here to there. But, you know, I have a lot of fear surrounding that. As you well could imagine. But I am not adamantly opposed to it. It's something I'm interested in it as an idea. (I say that a lot, whatever it means. I think it means "I am scared to death of this, but it is also intriguing." Other things that I am interested in as ideas: culinary school, moving to the beach in northeast Florida, touring with Ani Difranco for a year and writing a book about it.)

But, the bus is so civilized. The people who ride it often know each other from the same long, bumpy trips they take to and from home every day at the same time. They talk, they ask about each other's children. They ask about each other's doctor's appointments and weird skin anomolies--it's sort of like hell on earth, and a writer's fantasyland, all at once.

Not that bus riding needs a lengthy defense, but I offer this, as my closing argument: If you are standing outside the subway turnstile underground, and you don't have the fare you need, you could stand there for a half hour before you have enough money to get you where you are going. And then you'd have to find a Metrocard machine that works. Or you'd have to con someone into giving you a swipe from their card. But if you get on the bus, and discover that you are out of change--I've seen it happen a dozen times--everyone in the front half will dig through their pockets as if by command, and donate what they have. It's a small thing, but to me it feels like a miracle. It's a small act of forgiveness performed between strangers, in public.

Sorry there's no closure here. I don't know what the outcome is.

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