Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

“M” or “N”

subway

We talked about goals today in therapy.

“But how do you know which is the right path to take to reach your goals?” I asked my therapist towards the end of the session.

The therapist looked at his watch, indicating that time was up.

I took a long walk to 34th and 6th to take the E train back to Queens.

The E train was jammed with every Human of New York as we screeched from the station. It was not rush hour.  Something was wrong for it to be so crowded.

The conductor spoke over the loudspeakers.

“Because of construction,” he said, “The “E” train will only make stops on the [unintelligible]  line. Again, the “E” train will only make stops on the [unintelligible] train.”

“Did he say the “M” train or the “N” train?” asked the woman standing next to me, a middle-aged Pakistani lugging three shopping bags from TJ Maxx.

“”M” train” I said. “I think.”

“No, he said the “N” train.”” said a dude with an NYU yarmulke.

The confusion quickly spread through the entire train, like a wild fire in California, or viral video on Facebook.

“Let me say this again,” spoke the conductor.  “Because of construction, the “E” train will only make stops on the [unclear if its “M” or “N”] train. As in the word….”

He either said “Mikey” or “Nike.”

“Mikey?” asked an off-duty security guard reading the Daily News. “So it’s the “M” train?”

“I thought he said “Nike,” retorted a mother with a baby stroller. “So the “N” train.”

Like a boomerang tossed into the wind, our cries whipped back to the conductor.

“Because of construction…” he said for the third time, “… the “E” train will only make stops on the [unclear if its “M” or “N”] train.  As in… MICHAEL JORDAN.”

“Michael Jordan,” I said.  “I knew I heard “M.”

“But maybe he means Michael Jordan, as in the Air Jordans made by NIKE, so “N”!” said the security guard, proving Voltaire’s famous maxim that “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

The Pakistani woman was becoming frantic, swinging her shopping bags like a pendulum. She walked over to the side door where the conductor was sitting inside.  None of us had realized that we were in the first car, in close proximity to the oracle himself.  His door was adorned with a poster advertising a sleazy dentist who took all medical plans.

The woman knocked several times, asking, “What stops are we making on this train — “M” or “N?”

The conductor opened the door, revealing his unshaven pale face. There was gasps from the crowd, because his appearance was like seeing the Phantom coming on stage at the Paris Opera.

“We’re making the stops as the “M” train,” he said, as clearly as possible. “The “M” train. “M” as in AUNTIE M.”

The weary travelers sighed in relief. We were making the stops as the “M” train. It was as solid a truth as the existence of gravity.

Except that if he was making a reference to the Wizard of Oz, most people should know that Dorothy’s aunt was named Emily, so her name would be Auntie Em, not Auntie “M,” which would be an “E,” the letter of the train we thought when we first entered the “E” train. But rather than causing any more confusion, I kept this information to myself.

We all have goals in life. But sometimes we need to let life take us to our destination without question.

5 Comments

  1. That actually sounds like a mostly true story. 🙂

  2. I do not think there is a “right path.”
    I think you have to get out your machete (which begins with M) and clear your own path. Even in New York City. Maybe. Maybe not.

  3. Proof that they should teach International Radio Code in school. Right before cursive.
    There, I’ve said it.

  4. Laughed out loud, thanks.

    Linda

  5. Insight probably doesn’t turn into money, but you deserve a big pile of bucks for this, Neil.

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