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Subways Are For Sleeping

From time to time I have foraged in the preserve of one or another of the principal contributors to this total edition. I have snitched a bit of hard news - or, at least, a crumb from the edge of it; there have been hit-and-run sallies into Sports and Weather and so on. This time I swipe a morsel from the Theatre Department but only as a getaway car. Just this quick reference to a play of recent vintage called SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING. Just a short-term loan of the title.

a slanted view of a subway platform

The New York City Transit Authority has put out an eight-page booklet concerned not so much with what subways are for as with what they are NOT for. “Subways” for example, according to the list of Don’ts in the booklet “are not for singing.” There is to be no fishing in the trash receptacles for discarded newspapers. There is to be no amateur art work on the walls and posters.

While I am almost totally sympathetic with the motives that generated this list of Don’ts for Decorum in the New York subways, there is a small reservation lurking here and there. I can recall in the long waits in a subway station in the latish hours being exposed to a rendition of “Til We Meet Again” rendered in a fine baritone rumato by some inebriate whose harness of repression has been loosed. Music critics would perhaps not have given it four stars measured purely on sterling operatic criteria, but it was merry and brought the moody strangers on the station platform a warm glow of togetherness.

Again, I’m not sure that interfering with a citizen’s right to retrieve a discarded newspaper isn’t dangerously close to throwing a body block at his legitimate prerogative. I have seen riders on swank suburban locals in a ferment of indecision when eyeing a discarded Gazette on a seat in the train. I believe there is something of a code in these matters. If the paper is untidily crumpled it is not considered good form to go for it. If the page is turned to the cross word puzzle and the puzzle is only part done, the issue is moot. There are other fine points.

And finally, this bit about disallowing amateur artists their efforts to improve the billboards and enliven the murals, how then are succeeding generations to relieve frustrations in regard to abundant beards and sideburns? You know what the harvest will be, don’t you? The young men of tomorrow (though it may seem incredible to you now) will be letting their hair grow long and raising beards and that might get to be pretty doggoned messy.

In short, I’d like to know what the New York Transit Authority thinks subways ARE for. If not for singing and not for salvaging discarded newspapers and not for tonsorial addenda to existing fine art . . . what? For getting from place to place and that’s all?

If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a self-liquidating metaphor it would have to be called pedestrianism on wheels.