The police presence at my local subway stop was impossible to ignore this morning. The folding table that the NYPD occasionally sets up to search through backpacks was placed just to the right of the turnstiles, so that even if you and your bag weren’t singled out, the cops could eyeball you as you swiped your Metrocard. There was also a muted quality to the city today, as if the strivers and overachievers had turned down the volume on their ambition out of respect for the 2,751 who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks.
But there’s no question that most New Yorkers have pushed past the fear and the tension that came with taking the subway or an elevator to the high floor of a skyscraper. Our delusions of invincibility, which evaporated in the heat and the horror of seven years ago, have returned (just in time, it seems, to get us through a scary financial downturn.) The other day my wife arrived home from work to tell me that shortly after she walked into the car of a downtown express train on the A,C,E line at 34th Street, the conductor announced via loudspeaker that the train was being held in the station due to an “unattended’ bag.” Eerily, after hearing this, my wife noticed that a rather large and full-looking black messenger bag lay unattended on the floor at the other end of her car. She exited the train and watched as a number of people did the same, only to move to an adjacent car, presumably deciding that they would rather risk death than take the local.
Spotting a transit worker on the platform, my wife informed him of bag’s location. “Tell him,” he replied, jerking a thumb at one of the express train’s conductor who was running toward them. “I know,” the conductor told the Mrs. after she repeated her story, and then he jumped back on the train and announced, again via loudspeaker, that it was being put back into service. And so, late for an appointment, my wife inexplicably jumped back onto the car that contained the unattended bag, which was still very much unattended. On the car with her, she told me, were approximately 15 people, some of whom had never gotten off the train while it was being held in the station. When my wife, who is a fashion designer, first got on the train, she noticed the woman with the handheld because she was wearing a beautiful chiffon top with puffy sleeves and sateen shorts. (“It was sophisticated and hot—an Yves St. Laurent flashback from the 70s,” the Mrs. told me when describing the outfit. That is how she talks, in an Australian accent, no less.) And, according to my wife, not only did the hottie with the handheld remain on the train while it was held in the station, she didn’t notice the still-unattended bag until the train had started moving again and a heavyset woman sitting next to the Mrs. began talking about it. “Whatever happened to ‘If You See Something, Say Something’?”, wondered the heavyset woman.
“I did say something,” my wife replied.
“Why didn’t I get off?” said the woman in the chiffon top suddenly sounding alarmed.
“Why are we still on here?” said the heavyset woman.
Answered my wife: “I don’t know
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