New Yorkers say some terrible things about the subway – that they hate it, or are scared stiff of it, or that it deserves to go broke. For tourists, it seems just another dangerous aspect of New York, though most don’t know it exists. ‘I haven’t been down there in years,’ is a common enough remark from a city dweller. Even people who ride it seem to agree that there is more Original Sin among subway passengers. And more desperation, too, making you think of choruses of ‘O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark…’
‘Subway’ is not its name because, strictly speaking, more than half of it is elevated. But which person who has ridden it lately is going to call it by its right name, ‘The Rapid Transit’? It is also frightful-looking. It has paint and signatures all over its aged face. The graffiti is bad, violent and destructive, and is so extensive and so dreadful it is hard to believe that the perpetrators are not the recipients of some enormous foundation grant. The subway has been vandalized from end to end. It smells so hideous you want to put a clothes-pin on your nose, and it is so noisy the sound actually hurts. Is it dangerous? Ask anyone and he or she will tell you there are about two murders a day on the subway. It really is the pits, people say.
You have to ride it for a while to find out what it is and who takes it and who gets killed on it.