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Steel Toe!

September 27, 2010

not pretty! but will be prettier?

For work, I read a lot of material designed to keep struggling readers glued to the page. Just ask me if you have any questions about unusual parasitic worms, or some of the more lurid bits of history. Due to a book I read recently, the title of which is “Stalin,” etched in blood across the cover, I’m well poised to share some fun facts about Stalin’s Five Year Plan.

It was designed to bring the Soviet Union forward industrially, an ambitious goal. To Stalin’s great pride, he got the country where he’d intended to in only four years. Of course, Stalin liked to brag about how it was completed ahead of schedule. What he neglected to talk about was the abjectly horrible cost of trying to subjugate his own people: famine, for millions.

While in England, I saw a few signs announcing that civic projects had been completed ahead of schedule. Because I’d just learned about the 5 Year Plan, it worried me slightly, and I wondered if there is an evil plot afoot to keep the workers down, which I doubt, or if it’s a marketing ploy, which is more likely. The third option is that English people are just less reliant on deadline pressure to get stuff done, which would be really interesting, culturally.

And then I came home to Brooklyn, and noted with astonishment that a civic project in my own neighborhood has also been completed ahead of schedule.

The subway station a block and a half from our apartment has been under construction for quite a while. The station house is one of the most moth-eaten and otherwise compromised I have ever seen, and ideally it would be torn down and forgotten immediately. However, we as a collective community are very proud of it because it was the first subway station ever, or something. It is also superlative in the number of pigeons trying to ruin it, though I’ve never seen a rat there, so I should stop complaining.

While this is underway, we’ve been able to catch trains at the Manhattan-bound platform, but the Coney Island bound one was jackhammered into thin air, so there has been nowhere to stand, and trains just whizzed by. To get where you’re going, you can walk ten minutes to another station, or you can take a train in the wrong direction for a minute and then turn around.

We expected things to be like this for several more years.

However, while we were on vacation, they finished the southbound platform. And unless I have misunderstood something, it was finished ahead of schedule. A miracle! And now, they’ve taken the northbound platform out of service so they can chop that one up and pour a new one. As a result I could not catch the Manhattan bound train today. In general, I look forward to taking a little walk to a different station, but this specific morning I was coldy and jetlagged and it was pouring, so I decided to try out the new Southbound platform. It would take me even further into Brooklyn, and then I could switch over.

Milling around the outside of the station in the rain were the smoky and gruff MTA crew who are responsible for getting this all done. In honor of the weather, they’d donned matching bright yellow rubberized poncho-and-pants* sets. A subset of the construction workers had been deployed to deflect confused and sopping riders to the only part of the subway that now works, which is a part that didn’t even exist two weeks ago.

In England, we took many walks. The least pleasant and yet probably the most memorable was a trudge around the perimeter of a very large turnip field, ringed with mud, after a large rainstorm. We never found what we sought, which was the public footpath that would lead to a church approximately as old as our subway station house. As brown squooshy water filled my socks that morning, the fact that my new walking shoes are urban rather than rural became evident.

I was wearing these walking shoes again this morning when I realized that to enter the new station, I’d have to breach either leap over or swim through an urban lake at an intersection which had nowhere to drain. I was coming to terms with the fact that there was no way I could avoid getting wet and was pondering which would be the better foot to drench when I realized that one of the yellow poncho people was desperately trying to get my attention.

“Steel toe!,” He yelled, and pointed at his foot. “They’ve got steel toes!”

I looked at him. Was he bragging?

“Just step on my steel toe!” he commanded. He plished a big boot down into the water, and I finally understood. I grabbed his hand and stepped on his toe without crushing it and he helped me across.

Whoever said that the US isn’t civilized has not been to the Avenue H BMT station on a rainy September morning.

They should have MTA workers flanking turnip fields on organic farms in England as part of their stimulus.

* DO NOT say pants in England; it means undies.

Thanks to H.L.I.T. on flickr for use of the photo, released under Creative Commons 2.0.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2010 7:03 pm

    Positively delightful!

  2. Jen permalink
    September 30, 2010 12:54 pm

    You are brilliant. Will somebody give this girl a book contract? Or some pants…. ha ha ha ha!!

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