The Manhattan-bound 2 train was pronounced out of service as soon as I set foot on the platform in Borough Hall. There was an electrical fire, we were told. The 4 trains, which could be accessed from that platform, were running and we were advised to use them. Hah!
It was rush hour, you know, the time of day when everybody rushes to stand still? Yes, that time. I’d been out all day and was tired and only mildly cranky because I’d had the presence of mind to have a snack so I wasn’t starving, too. That’s probably why my mental faculties were functioning and I took a moment to think things through.
The 2 train runs on the west side of Manhattan, which is where I was headed. The 4 train runs on the east side of Manhattan. To get myself home that route, I’d have to traipse over to the 4 train platform along with the hundreds of other passengers making their way home at that time, not only the regular riders, but, now, the overflow riders from the disabled 2 train line. Since Borough Hall is one of the last stops in Brooklyn before getting into Manhattan, the trains would already be crowded when they arrived at the station. Furthermore, they’d be making stops through the Financial District, at rush hour, picking up more tired, cranky passengers before I could get off at Grand Central to make my way over to the west side, to then get on a 1 train along with the many more passengers who would not only be tired and cranky from a long day at work, but would also be pissed off by the massive delays caused by that disabled train sitting in front of me at the Borough Hall platform. It would take a lot of time and effort, and I was too tired to deal with all the other too tired people.
So, I opted to sit it out on the 2 train platform in Borough Hall. A decision that was matched by a few other fellow passengers. We quietly, peacefully, and pragmatically made our way to the nearest bench, parked our weary butts, stayed out of the way, and waited.
We watched the fire fighters come down with their fire extinguishers to check out the smouldering defect. We watched the police officers ushering people off the platform. We watched the MTA mechanics come down with little bags that looked a lot like doctors’ bags. Appropriate. We sat quietly as MTA officials came to survey the situation. We continued to sit quietly as people walked purposefully from the 4 train platform to attempt to catch the 2 train that wasn’t going anywhere. We heard the authorities – police, MTA, firefighters – turn them back.
Since I was sitting quietly, I had a lot of time for observation and contemplation. First, the fire was contained. It was in the electrical equipment, and the train was taken out of service as soon as the conductor in that car smelled the smoke. Good call. No one was injured, and the potential for injury was minimized immediately. Of course, a great number of people were inconvenienced, including myself. Eventually, the train was towed out of the station removing the delay, and operations resumed. Instead of spending that hour jostling from one train to another, I had a ring-side seat to the handling of a transit crisis. I witnessed the professional demeanor of all responders. I admired their calm in the face of intransigent New Yorkers, like myself, who do not do well with patriarchal displays of authority. I was grateful for the speed and efficiency with which they dispatched the problem.
I got home, eventually, a little later than expected and none the worse for wear. Allowing myself to be in the present moment, I was able to look, ask questions, listen to answers, and make a decision that served me better than the option I was being directed to use. That “look before you leap” thing? Totally worked for me!