Sometimes I wish New York City had those people they have in Japan, the ones who push people on to the subways with poles like cattle prodders. That way the disabled person wouldn’t have to worry about getting on. No matter who you are – disabled, pregnant, old or beautiful – it’s a survival of the fittest once you get below ground. Sometimes the little old ladies have it best because they can dart quickly to a seat (and they do), like mice fleeing to their nests.
The disabled seats are right next to the subway doors, with big black signs that read Reserved for the Disabled. Above them is a sign “Please remember that some passengers may have disabilities that are not visible.” I laugh to myself when I see this sign because the truth is even if you are visibly disabled no one gives you their seat, even if they happen to be sitting in a disability seat. New Yorkers believe they have earned a subway seat; they have worked hard for it. Just like they have worked hard to be able to survive in such a difficult city.
The most challenging part for Hal is getting off the subway because some of the youngest, strongest, toughest people stand by the doors so that they can get out early. It’s a power thing. There are black signs on the doors too, telling you not to block them, but people still do. The doors open and close quickly so Hal has little time to make his exit. It would be best if no one stood by those doors so Hal could stand and wait to exit but that doesn’t happen – he has to make the mad dash just as the doors open.
We live in Philadelphia now where we hardly ever ride the subway. In fact, I have only been on it once to go to a baseball game. I don’t miss the mad scramble, the rush, the subway seat as a reward; the I’ve earned it way of life.