Saturday, September 03, 2011

The New York City subway system is way too metaphysical for me

Apologies if I offered approximately this entry a year or two ago - I had the same experience and it struck me the same way, and I don't recall if I posted about it. But anyway.

Last night I had to take the F train all the way out to Coney Island for a Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball game. Today I had to take the F in the other direction, to Roosevelt Island for some early morning tennis.

Each time, a train that was NOT labeled an F train approached on the F track - a D train yesterday, and an E train today.

Each time the garbled PA system said something like the following: "This is a [D/E] train traveling on the F track." I had to make a snap decision: do I take the train or not? The trains that they were labeled as would potentially take me to the wrong place (actually, the D might have worked yesterday, but definitely not the E today). In each case time was of the essence. So should I board the train or not?

Each time I did and it worked out for me. But my view was that, if these trains were traveling on the F track and making F stops, then they were F trains. They were not, at least for the duration of the journey, D or E trains traveling on the F track. A train is defined by the stops it makes.

The MTA, by contrast, appears to be essentialist (is that the right word here?) about train definitions. It thinks of a train as a D train or an E train, if that is its nature or how it is labeled, even while it is traveling on the F track and making only F stops.

Perhaps they could have clarified things a bit, without necessitating the metaphysical dispute, had they said that the trains were "traveling on the F track and making all F stops." Then I would still disagree with them about what the trains really were, but it would have been immaterial instead of causing initial anxiety.

Then again, perhaps I am over-thinking the whole situation a bit.

1 comment:

JPB said...

No you are not. Have been living in NYC for 15 years and still can't figure the subway out half the time. Just got back from Paris. Metro there is so much more logical and easier to use.