I brought down the MTA on Sunday afternoon. I went to the Morgan Library to see A Collective Invention: Photographs at Play. Before leaving the museum, I breezed through the shop and left with a huge wooden box. It was heavy. I didn’t mind. I had purchased an unusual blue and white plate to add to my collection of indigo porcelain dishware. By 3:00 pm, The Persian Day Parade had finished. The buses were again running up Madison Avenue. I waited about 3 minutes and climbed on the #3 Bus. I had my metrocard ready to insert in the slot. “Insufficient fare.” I pulled out my second metro card. “45 cents due.” No problem. I have lots of change. I pulled out 4 dimes and 1 nickel.
Slightly embarrassed by the failure of my two metro cards, I put the first dime in the slot.
A second later, I realized I had dropped the dime into the metrocard slot, not the coin slot. The dime was stuck in the card slot. I pulled out my keys and tried to loosen the dime from the jaws of the metrocard reader. I dove into my pocketbook and took out my pen, perhaps the point would do the trick. This also failed. The bus driver told me sit down. He closed the doors and called “headquarters.” After what seemed like an hour, he put the phone down and tried to jiggle the box. The dime was firmly lodged in the slot. He tried to loosen dime with a metrocard. This effort also produced no results.
New Yorkers do not take kindly this sort of disruption. They want to get where they are going as quickly as possible. One could argue the bus is not the most efficient means of transportation, but people who take the bus consider it an orderly and safe way to travel. It wasn’t too long before the woman behind me starting yelling at the bus driver. “Are you an idiot? What you are doing is never going to work. Let’s get going. Are you going to keep us hostage, while you hopelessly fool around with the box.” He ignored her, which further infuriated her.
The driver got back in his seat. Stepped on the gas and the bus started to move. 3 blocks later the driver pulled the bus over and picked up the phone again. Everyone on the bus was mystified. We couldn’t figure what the big deal was. It is not unusual to get on a bus in NYC and have a metrocard sticking out of the slot. The driver waves you on the bus. It’s a free ride.
This driver was different. Something about the situation was driving him crazy and the passengers berserk. The same woman who had been screaming from her seat, got up. “I usually carry a pair of tweezers with me, but not today. That is the only thing that will eject the dime. You must open the door immediately and let us off”. In a moment of clarity, the driver sensed the mood of the people on the bus. It was going to be a mutiny. He opened the door. At least half the people on the bus, got off as fast as they could.
I felt compelled to stay. This fiasco was my fault. In an odd way, I felt sympathy for the driver. I had ruined his day. When I stepped off the bus at 79 street, I wanted to say something to him: like this is not a catastrophic event. Instead, I lifted my big box, maneuvered myself down the step and swore never to be without at least 3 fully-loaded metro cards.