Three Swipes And You’re Out

By Ray Schultz

Now I’m not trying to influence anyone’s vote in Tuesday’s New York Democratic primary, but I have to stick up for Hillary Clinton in one respect. People are laughing at her because she had to swipe her Metrocard five times to get through a subway turnstile a couple of weeks ago.

Are they out of their minds? Sometimes it takes me ten swipes, and I’m a lifelong New Yorker who rides the subway almost every day.

Face it, we have a dysfunctional fare-collection system in this town. It starts with the card dispensers. Often, they’ll tell you that they can’t take cash or credit cards, or both. That means you have to stand on a long line and deal with a surly booth attendant.

Then you finally get your card filled. And you swipe it at the turnstile. And you swipe it again while people on the line offer advice. Go slower. Or faster. Then, on the sixth try, the machine responds and says: “Insufficient funds.” But you just put ten bucks on the card, and you haven’t ridden anywhere yet!

So it’s back to the booth attendant. He recalibrates the card, and waves you through the gate. You haven’t wasted all that much time, but your blood pressure has risen to a dangerous level.

The attendants, by the way, are unfailingly polite to tourists. But they seem to have a sixth sense about who the native New Yorkers are, and treat them like dirt.

Let’s not discuss what happens once you’re inside the gate. The platform is so packed that if a single person sneezes, two or three travelers will fall to their deaths on the tracks. Then there’s the rats. One was videotaped climbing on a sleeping person the other day—on the train!

Are you riding to the Hudson Yards, the first new subway station opened in 25 years? It’s already leaking there, and the elevators don’t work. And things will probably be worse when the Second Ave. subway, consisting of only three new stops, opens years behind schedule.

So let the idiots laugh. If Hillary’s a chump, we all are.

I have a dream. It’s 1916. I hand in a nickel at the spanking-new station on the 4th Ave. line in Brooklyn. A shiny new BRT (or BMT) Standard train pulls in. I sit down on one of the cushioned wicker seats, and the train starts its smooth ride under the streets.

Need I say it, 1916 was also an election year, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody asked President Woodrow Wilson to exhibit his subway-riding skill. He probably never rode a subway in his life.

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