Friday, July 21, 2006


I've been taking the Long Island Railroad for years. Again, don't assume I'm from -- or live on -- Long Island simply because I frequently mention the LIRR. Take a look at a map of the system, and you'll see several stations in Brooklyn, and several in Queens. This disclaimer is being issued because every time I mention the LIRR on this site, I get the same slew of shitheaded emails telling me I'm "unqualified" to talk about living in the city because I don't take the subway to work.

I don't know why I get so defensive about this anyway. There's nothing inherently wrong with living on Long Island, or being from Long Island. Unless, of course, you actually find yourself on Long Island and can't get the fuck off Long Island. As I've said before, the only thing I don't understand about people who live on Long Island is why they'd ever want to remain in a place so bereft of anything worthwhile. It's an overcrowded bedroom community, and that's all it is. It's a plainfaced suburban nothingland that's no different from Orange County or Grosse Pointe or the Inland Empire -- whatever the fuck that is -- or anywhere else where people drive white Escalades and hire teams of illegal immigrants to walk around with gas-powered leaf blowers and discharge clouds of dusty compost into the street for me to run my car through, middle finger extended.

In any case, I took the Long Island Railroad the other night. The ticket window at the station was closed, and both automatic ticket machines were broken. When you buy a ticket on board, the conductor is required to charge you an extra $5 or so, no matter what type of ticket you're purchasing (peak, off-peak, one-way or round-trip). I explained to him that the machines were down, and he said he had to collect the surcharge regardless, but that I could write the LIRR's main office and request a refund. Fine. I paid.

He took out an on-board ticket, punched it full of the requisite holes, and slipped it into the ticket holder atop the back of the seat in front of me. As he was walking away, I pulled it out of the holder and put it in my pocket. The conductor, seeing this, reversed field and walked back toward me.

"Why'd you take that out of there?" he asked.


"Why'd you take your ticket off the seat? That has to stay there."

"Can't you just put a seat check there?" I asked. "I'd rather not leave my ticket out."

"Why not?"

"You really wanna know?"

"Yeah," he replied. "I really do."

"Because when I was in high school, I was taking a train home from Manhattan, and somebody snatched my ticket off the seat, and you guys kicked me off the train at Jamaica, thinking I didn't have a ticket, and my father had to come and pick up the only two fifteen-year-old white kids in the middle of Jamaica station at midnight because we didn't have enough money left on us to get home. That's why I don't want the ticket on the seat."

"But there's nobody on this train."

"Dude," I said, "I don't wanna be an asshole, but if you're gonna bang me eleven bucks for a five mile train ride, the least you could do is let me make sure nobody steals the goddamned ticket."

"Suit yourself."