Subway Conductors’ Window Habits


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As I was setting up to play at the Music Under New York site at the 59th street & Lexington subway station a lady wearing an MTA coat walked by, leading a bicycle. She called out to me “Natalia, you’re all right”. That means she bothered to read the MUNY permit banner which I hang on the wall behind me when I perform in the subway, because otherwise she would only know my nick name – ‘Saw Lady’.

MTA sign

A short while after I started to play I saw somebody waiving to me from the other platform across the tracks. It turned out to be Kate who used to ring handbells with me. She was psyched she finally ran into me in the subway. I think if you sit in one spot long enough in the NYC subway, eventually you get to see everybody in NYC pass through that spot.

Other platform

A blind couple walking with blind-canes stepped out of the train. They were looking to get out of the subway station and onto the street. A nice gentleman was trying to point them in the right direction, but then realized it would just be easier to lead them to the exit. These people are so brave – a big city can be scary when one does have one’s eye sight – I can’t even imagine how one manages when one can’t see. I admire these people’s resolve.

Blind couple

At 12:25 a tall “woman” dressed in black Muslim garb (long black dress, black head cover and face cover) walked by. That is not an unusual sight, but what caught my attention was the fact that she looked to be a man to me. Not only are Muslim ladies usually shorter and this lady was really tall, but what I noticed most was that she walked like a man. As she passed me I got a glimpse of her head from behind. Usually the scarf on Muslim women’s heads is wrapped around their hair and one can tell they have their hair in a bun, but the cloth on this lady’s head lay flat, as if she had very short hair, like a man’s hairdo – it looked like there was no hair under the scarf and the “bun” was made out of cloth. Was that a man disguised as a woman? ‘What if this is a terrorist’, I thought. But then again, what if this is just a very tall woman who walks with a manly gait? Should I alert the police? Not that there was any police officer around… I remembered how a few years ago I alerted the police to an abandoned bag at the 34th street subway station. When it turned out the bag was not a bomb, the police officers were annoyed with the fact that I bothered them…

A man kissed my hand. He apologized for his English (which was actually quite good) so I asked him where he was from:
‘Egypt’
What’s your name?’
‘Tony’.
(Not a very Egyptian name…)
Tony told me he is a hair dresser in Astoria and he said whenever I want stuff done to my hair he will be happy to do it for free.

Lex & 59th station

An older gentleman told me that 20 years ago there was a guy who played the musical saw at a bar at 73rd street & Broadway. I sure would like to know who he was.

A girl told me she is a music (voice) major at Hunter College. She said she takes ethnomusicology but she never heard of the musical saw.

Train conductor

I enjoy waving ‘hello’ to the conductors of the trains as they pass me by. Some wave back to me. A few even wave to me first – those who have seen me before. I noticed that most women train conductors tend to close their window immediately as the train’s doors close, while men conductors look out their window longer. If the women conductors look out their window after the train doors close, they tend to look in the direction the train is going, while the men conductors tend to look at the platform.

Woman conductor

A policeman stopped to ask how I was doing and if the musical saw was sharp.

A lady said she hasn’t seen a musical saw for a long time. She used to see it in the Philippines, where she is from.

The lady wearing an MTA coat and walking a bicycle walked by me going the opposite way from this morning. “Natalia, you’re all right” she called out to me again.
I guess she was done with whatever it is she was doing where she headed to this morning. So was I.

6 train

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3 Responses to Subway Conductors’ Window Habits

  1. Howlin' Hobbit on March 12, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    When the cop asked if the saw was sharp you should have given him an offended look and said, “No. It’s perfectly on pitch!”

  2. Saw Lady on March 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    That is funny!
    I totally didn’t think of that (all I was thinking was – is he going to give me a ticket…)

  3. Alyssa on March 30, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I am a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab researching public spaces in NYC. I came across your blog because of your snapshots of subway life. Thank you for the site. I really love the subway, and enjoy the perspective of someone who’s watching it.

    Best,
    Alyssa

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