Friday, March 16, 2018

Philosophy on the NY Subway

As I prepared for my month in Manhattan, I discovered that I could get a personalized MetroCard – with a photo! – that would get me half-price on the subways and buses.

You have to know the transit lover in me to know the ecstasy that overtook me. I phoned them up right away: yes, I could come in with two photo IDs even before my birthday and I could get it right then and there. Hooray for turning 65!

So, of course, I took my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged, excited self down to 3 Stone Street as soon as I arrived. First, I had to find Stone Street, then I had to find how to travel there. I’m renting in a less-than-familiar part of Manhattan so I’m in the midst of direction-confusion and am back to writing little cheat sheets to myself after I examine all the permutations and combinations of MTA Trip Planner and my maps. Plus, I still have to learn how to lock the doors to where I’m staying.

I waited for my number to be called and headed to Window #1, and I received a gorgeous, yellow, Reduced-Fare MetroCard with my photo on it!

I can’t paint an exact picture of it here because I no longer have it. (Sob!)

After getting my gorgeous, yellow, Reduced-Fare MetroCard with my photo on it, I calculated which was the best deal for purchase. I could pay for a trip costing $1.35/trip; I could get a 7-day Unlimited Ride Reduced-Fare MetroCard for $16 or 11.8 rides in a week, or $2.29/day; or I could get a 30-day Unlimited Ride Reduced-Fare MetroCard for $60.50 which was the best deal in the whole wide world!

So off I went to the nearest subway station, to the fare machine. Nothing about it was intuitively obvious, but I came to the big existential question of the day: Was I going to “Add Value” or “Add Time”?

What would you say?

What would you say if you’d saved the attached quote in your journal for many years?

I can’t add hours to the day. I can’t add more days to a week or a month, but value? I can add value to my card (by putting money on it), value to my ride (by going for the 30-day option), and value to my whole life and the planet!

So I added value. Something didn’t look right. I went back to 3 Stone Street, got a new number and window #5: “You weren’t supposed to Add Value. You were supposed to Add Time. Nothing we can do about that now. We’ll take back your gorgeous, yellow, Reduced-Fare MetroCard with your photo on it and get you a refund in six weeks. Here’s a temporary, boring, plain old card you can go put another $60.50 on.”

Which I did.

Back to the station, I swiped my card in the swiper. It said "expired." I tried again. It said, “Just Used.” I tried another gate: “Just Used.” I’ll spare you all the back and forth trips for remedies. Eventually, a station agent let me in, and I boarded a train, slightly dreading that I wouldn’t be able to get back because my brand-new boring and untested MetroCard wouldn’t work.

But as I swiped it for the return, I saw that the message said, “Pass Expires 4/12/18.” Oh, it wasn’t expired! It was giving me handy consumer information! Bless those tiny little LED-ish messages that can’t be read in dimly lit stations! I just pressed the turnstile and was through.

This was a Big Day in my Third Third:
  • Turning 65 comes with unanticipated thrills! I have unlimited reduced fares on subways, buses, even the Long Island Rail Road. If I’m never heard from again, check with the MTA.
  • I still think I was adding value, not time. In the universe, I’m right. In the MTA, they’re right, and I’m finished arguing even though I did tell them they should have the capability to over-ride the magnetic strip.
  • They say we have to do really difficult things to keep our brains active, and plunging myself into a new environment, negotiating bureaucracies, figuring out how they could have done it better if I were in charge – all while panicking that I’d never get home – are just exercises to avoid cognitive decline. I’m not getting older, I’m getting IQ points.
  • It’s always about the adventure. I took four train trips today. I saw a parking lot with cars on elevators, I went to the Museum of Math on Pi Day, heard the author of Caesar’s Last Breath talk about air, had a 99¢ slice of New York pizza, got a New York Public Library card, and walked more than 70 New York blocks. All possible because I had a temporary, boring, plain old Reduced-Fare MetroCard.

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