Amateurs. With their giant bags, lackadaisical meanderings, screaming children and other etiquette violations, they’re high on the list of commuter annoyances.
Luckily however we professionals don’t often interact with rookies during the main leg of our rush hour travels. Once we leave the friendly confines of our commuter rail systems however, the amateur quotient rises. The subway is of course full of newbies, however our superior commuting chops usually give us the upper hand.
There is one spot though where the clueless outnumber the clued by a large margin. Times Square is generally a sea of slack-jawed shufflers who have no place in particular to be anytime soon. While it’s bad enough above ground, the northernmost entrance to the Times Square subway station – at the tip of One Times Square, directly below where they drop the ball each New Year’s Eve – is truly the gateway to amateur hell.
The subway entrance in this presumably marquee location consists of a narrow stairway leading to a small entrance space. Because this entrance is inexplicably unmanned by any MTA employees, the only way onto the platform is through two High Entrance Exit Turnstiles or HEETs. Those who aren’t familiar with this term may be able to identify these things by a more colorful nickname “the baby back ribs of death.”
The biggest drawback of these poorly designed monstrosities is that while speed dictates that the rider should swipe his or her metrocard and quickly proceed into the whirring blades of doom, the reality is that these things often misread cards, leading a rushing commuter to slam into a revolving gate that has not yet been instructed to revolve. While it seems counterintuitive, the best way to proceed is to swipe your card and wait until you see the green “Go” light that indicates your swipe was successful. Only then can you safely step into the jaws of the beast.
As this is hard enough for seasoned commuters to master, the thousands of chattering extra-regional nincompoops who are drawn to Times Square like moths to a bug zapper don’t have a chance. Each rush hour finds distressed families at the gates, some of them having successfully made it to the platform, the others waiting nervously on the other side of the bars, and one in the middle one who keeps swiping his card and repeating “did it work?” in whatever his native tongue happens to be. Behind them you can find a line — often backed up the steps to nearly street level — of frustrated would-be commuters waiting to try their luck.
The worst part of all this? This happens to be the subway entrance closest to my office, and I’ll be damned if a bunch of amateurs are gonna force me to go half a block out of my way.