Inertia Creeps

It gave me pause.

It was one of those moments where CNN is all you can hear in the newsroom. Everyone’s tuned into the same story, and listening closely.

Commissioner Kelly (Commissioner Gordon’s nephew) sounded dire, warning of a “credible but unsubstantiated threat” in the coming days. I was talking with my colleague Ben Cosgrove as Kelly prattled on. “My first thought,” I said, “Is ‘Where’s Abbi?’ My second thought is, ‘Shit, it’s a long walk home.’

Mayor Bloomberg, God bless ‘m, said, he was taking the subway home like any other day. (I joked with our intern Hallie that, while it might be true that he commutes like the rest of us, he weekends in a private plane.)

The MTA consists of 26 subway lines, 490 stations and 660 miles of track. There are about 6,400 cars. 4.5 million commuters ride the rails every day.

That’s a lot of baby strollers.

Around six o’clock, a bunch of sirens raced through Times Square. I kept one eye on my work, and the other on CNN, wondering when they’d cut in with a live shot of a smoldering subway station. Luckily, Lou Dobbs just kept on reporting on Bush’s “Terrorism Sucks” speech (coincidence?). It’s not all that unusual to hear sires — lots of — from my office. It always makes me wonder if something else has happened.

Down on the street, Times Square was in full swing: neon flashing, horns blowing, tourists swarming. I hustled my way through the throngs listening to Rufus Wainwright “Beautiful Child.” If tonight were to be my last on earth, Rufus was gonna take me out.

And when there’s nothing to gain
Or bring me pain or pin the blame
On you or myself
And when they finally fall
These wailing walls and burdened crosses
God’s twilights and all

There were no police inside of the Times Square Station, just the usual clusters of Dutch clutching maps, Texans puzzling over the MetroCard machine, and Brazilians wrestling with turnstiles. Still, people were looking each other over out of the corners of their eyes.

There is a great open space where riders of the S, N/R, 1/2/3 converge in a sea of darting bodies. They jostle like atoms, or bees in a hive. Tonight, a huge crowd — maybe 200 hundred strong — had gathered around a few hip hop dancers and their boom box.

I wondered to myself, ‘Are they stupid? Oblivious? Cavalier?’

But maybe it doesn’t really matter. Maybe we have to dance in the face of this fear. Maybe we have to just keep on walking. And maybe along the way, we’re supposed to pause and share a smile. Maybe it’s all we can do.

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