A Clownish Commuter

New York City subway in 1958. After missing the Rockaway Express as it left Times Square, Jazzbo the clown waited for the next train.
Transportation in New York City is at once universal and mysterious: a familiar, well-worn labyrinth with an encyclopedia’s worth of idiosyncratic tendencies and tidbits. Next week on City Room, we will be opening the digital floor to questions about anything that moves in the five boroughs, from yachts and helicopters to defunct subway trains and long-lost rail routes. [Ask About Transportation in New York City/ NYT]

I’m always delighted to learn that subway commuters haven’t changed very much over the years. What’s more, perhaps many of them were/ are actually real, and not (as I presumed they were) hallucinations.

You may be happy to know that Jazzbo the Clown (see here) was very real; he’s alive and well and living in Long Island. Apparently his train finally did arrive…eventually. Nowadays, the MTA has the monopoly on clowns…more akin to Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s It.

Ed Tester (sans clown make-up) and his wife, Margie, on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary, October 4th, 2006.
Photo courtesy of Edmund “Jazzbo” Tester

Music From Below

Arts For Transit hosted the auditions for the MTA’s Music Under New York program [yesterday] morning, and the authority’s videographer has already produced a video from the day’s events. For my money, the best MUNY group around are the Ebony Hillbillies.

Source: Second Avenue Sagas

Should I Brake or Should I Not?

Most subway riders haven’t a clue when it comes to a train’s emergency brake. The confusion begins with the first line of instructions alongside the brake itself: “Emergency Instructions… Do Not Pull The Emergency Brake….” Does that mean that the brake should never be pulled, in or out of an emergency? Or does it mean that only authorized personnel could pull the brake in times of emergency and/or at other select times? People have a tendency to read and run, especially when they commute, and seldom read beyond the headlines of news and notices; the fine print containing the reservations and qualifications for life’s routine and non-routine demands is often ignored.

A 28-year-old filmmaker by the name of Casey Neistat considered the emergency-braking confusion and deemed it propitious material for a film. “There are few times in my life where I have lightning bolts of inspiration like that,” he declared. The short film, appropriately titled “emergency brake,” is a five minute long “love story about New York City…A message to the M.T.A.

Finally, considering the fact that pulling the emergency brake will bring 400 tons of train and human existence to a sudden and spine-tingling halt, it should be used with discretion. Transit officials explain (“simply” they claim) that the brake should only be pulled when there’s immediate danger to life or limb due to the train’s motion: someone caught between the doors, for instance, and being dragged to a fatal conclusion.

Hence, the immediacy of certain death determines when the brake should be engaged…otherwise it would be in constant use by all of us: riders on the city’s subterranean and elevated rails who laugh at death to scorn amid our blissful confusion.

NY Times