By Jade

My apologies if you don’t live in NYC or some other metropolitan area where you’ve forgone the convenience of a car in favor of letting public transportation dictate your access to livelihood and sustenance (hey, at least public transportation is environmentally friendly!), as what follows will mean nothing to you.  You could always read it anyway and pat yourself on the back for choosing not to hand your entire paycheck over to your landlord and fill your lungs with taxi dust.

So, as you know or might imagine, there are trains that go different places running along the same route.  The good people at MTA New York City Transit have implemented a system of letters, numbers, and colors to help us figure it all out (and still, senior citizens visiting from Jersey will cling to their tattered, outdated subway maps–no more W train, what?!–no matter how many times since 1971 they’ve come into the city for “that new MOMA exhibit”).

I live along the yellow line, and I depend on the N and Q trains to get to and from my home and office.  But these vessels are not alone in their fearless journey.  Rather, they share a track with the scummiest of railroad scum, the R train.  Don’t get me wrong, the R train serves a vital purpose within Manhattan, shuttling underfed NYU kids in their all-black Urban Outfitters ensembles down to Canal for cheap dim sum.  And it helps the hard-working lifeblood of the city get to the not-yet-gentrified bits of Brooklyn and Queens.

But it doesn’t do a damn thing for me.  And it’s always an older train that relies on an actual conductor to tell you where you are, rather than the pleasant recorded voice whose platitudes I memorized within a week of moving to the city (Ladies and gentlemen, if you see a suspicious package on the platform or train, do not keep it to yourself…).  My beef with the R train, however, is not its overall inferiority, or even necessarily that it doesn’t serve my transportation needs, but rather that it fails to serve my transportation needs and it ALWAYS arrives before the N or Q.


I’m not sure if this is some metro twist on Murphy’s Law, but I kid you not, no matter when I come scrambling down the stairs onto the platform, the R train always precedes the one I so desperately need to deliver me from my daily grind or dubious night out.  And sometimes two—even three!—of these effers will whoosh by, disheveling my hair, before the shiny, reassuring N comes plowing down the tunnel.  It never fails.  Ever.  It’s as if the guy in the little ticket booth sees me coming and radios to the control center:

“Quick!  Reroute the N that was approaching and throw an R in there.  You know, just to prolong Jade’s stay on the platform a little while.  So that guy with the pedo ‘stache can stare at her for a few more minutes, and so she can lose a bit more of her already waning hearing ability while that guy bangs on an upside-down jug and asks for tips!”

Or at least that’s how it feels.

I think the forces responsible for this phenomenon perpetrate another I’ve oft observed: whether I’m going uptown or downtown, whether I need express or local service, and no matter which line I’m taking, at least two—and often, three!—trains going the opposite direction will pass before the one I need comes my way.

I’m not certain what I did to develop such pitiful subway karma, but it sure as heck couldn’t have been as bad as what this guy did.  Just sayin’.

As misery loves company, it would make me feel better to know that I’m not the only one grappling with the wrath of the public transit gods.  Have you ever been the victim of R Train Syndrome?