In Transit

Mornings and evenings in a subway station are not the same. People are in a hurry at either time but in the evening they’re heading home looking forward to relaxing after a long day or thinking about getting ready to go out for the evening. This morning, as on any weekday morning, the station bustles. There’s an urgency in the air as workers hustle to get to work on time. Its a busy, noisy place at 7:30 am.

I join the commuters streaming down the escalator and watch them jostle to claim their places in the turnstile queues. Voices echo as neighbours share their plans for the day. The clatter of feet and the mechanical rattle of the turnstiles resound off the tile. A steady breeze flows down the stairs from outside and then down the far stairs to track level. It’s as cool as a cave below ground and there’s a slight smell of floor cleaner mixed with a dozen passing fragrances.

Like me a few people are standing against the wall waiting for colleagues or travel partners. There’s a busy kiosk in the far corner selling newspapers and candy and a small crowd is huddled around the cash register, impatient for their turn. Next to the kiosk sits a collection of silver coloured waste and recycling containers. From one of them an escaping page of newsprint trembles with every gust.

The concourse is clad in tile. A black border runs along the floor about a foot from the walls, corralling the grey-white granite squares. Years of traffic has eroded the original finish and the surface is marked by shoe scuffs and tracked-in street dirt. The ceramic tile walls are a clean and shining pearl, save three bands of pine-green at floor, shoulder and ceiling. The ceiling tiles are white and a half dozen neon light fixtures and a few fire sprinklers break its plane.

Every few minutes the air rumbles and then up the stairs from track level comes a roar and the squeal of brakes. Doors hiss open. Seconds later the cars rush back into the tunnel. The wind from each train sends a collection of litter near the stairs shifting like debris caught in a river current.

The crowd thins as I wait, the stream only a trickle and the queues have disappeared. The latecomers are scurrying past me in their ones and twos. All of the others who were waiting along the walls have gone. The concourse is almost empty except for a whiskered, denim clad busker strumming his guitar at the bottom of the steps and a trio of teen boys huddling with a slim girl by the ticket machine, hooting and laughing as she flushes in response.

I see my friend coming down the steps from the street. I wave and meet her near the turnstile. We step onto the escalator and the concourse slides out of sight. ©

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