Random Encounters Underground 



Neighborhood: Subway

Flushing Ave. on the M

The train stops and the doors open, except one door panel is cut out (locked closed, to prevent it from opening). A tall, skinny, black dude on the platform tries to board the train and, wham! He walks right into the closed panel.

He steps back and catches his breath. “Whoa…,” just like Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” I have no idea what he’s imbibed, or ingested, or inhaled.

He takes a step to the left, centering himself in the open door panel, and JUMPS onto the train. Brushes himself off and takes a seat.

Christopher St. on the 1

They have me working the platform. Pride weekend. It’s quite a scene.

A young man in a very nice summer dress jumps the turnstile, right in front of me. He’s got some glitter makeup on, but isn’t in drag. He’s just a young guy in a dress.

I look at him, “Really? I’m right here.”

“Sorry,” he says, “but I lost my wallet with my MetroCard.”

Given the way he’s dressed it seems plausible, so I let it go. Then he asks if he’s on the uptown side. We’re on the downtown side. “You have to go jump the turnstile on the other side,” I say, “where all the cops are.” And they are there. We can see them.

“Ok. Sorry again.” And he leaves.

Five minutes later I turn around and he’s standing right behind me. He sees me and starts, “Did I just come back to the wrong side?”  And off he goes for the second time.


Olivia (her real name): Hi there.
Train Operator:  Hi.
Olivia:  What’s your name?
T/O:  Well, technically, I only have to tell you my pass number.
Olivia:  Oh. Well, what’s your pass number?
T/O: 8****1.  What’s your name?
Olivia:  Olivia.
T/O:  Olivia! That’s a beautiful name!
Olivia:  Everybody tells me it’s a beautiful name.
T/O:  Because it is. Can I call you Olive? Or Ollie, for short?
Olivia:  [Laughs]
T/O:  How old are you, Olivia?
Olivia: I’m five!

Franklin Ave. on the C

I make my station stop and notice a guy standing a few feet away.  He comes up to my window, “Hey man.”  I drop the window, thinking he wants directions.

“I’m suicidal.  I need some help,” and he bursts into tears.

So I’m on the radio. The Rail Control Center can hear me, but I can’t hear them, and neither can my conductor hear them. We’re calling and calling. The tower at Jay St. finally breaks in and says the R.C.C. hears us.

We’re there 10 minutes before someone shows up, a station manager, I think, and starts talking to this guy, but no cops or EMS.

Jay St. starts getting antsy. “Close it down and proceed.” So we close down. I take minimum power, and the guy makes a move toward the train.  I stop and take my hands off the controls.

The station manager is talking to him, talking to him, and he finally starts walking away with her. She’s between him and the train. I was minimum power all the way out of the station, my head out the window, watching the whole way.

I thought about him all the way to 168th St., and realized I wanted to say thank you to him. Thanks for talking to me and not just jumping in front of my train.


If you ride the New York City subway, it is possible that Train Operator X is driving your train. He usually works the overnight shift.

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