The Kinder, Gentler Subway Clerk

There’s an entertaining story on page 1 of today’s Wall Street Journal about how subway clerks, no longer needed to dispense tokens, have been reprogrammed to be “roving station agents” and help confused subway riders. The story focuses on Staten Island’s Carmine Dargenio, a pencil sketch and all, who goes out of his way to help riders. In one instance, he approaches a businessman’s back and casually fixes the upturned collar of the man’s suit. (Could it be? The popped-collar d***wad from Grand Central?)

I don’t think this was the intent of the reporter, Barry Newman, but Dargenio goes from kindly helper of the needy and confused to downright creepy stalker dude by the end of the story. Of the popped-collar guy, he says, “That particular gent. I don’t know his name. I know he has grandchildren. They live in Atlanta.”

Like, how does he know this?

As the story winds down, the reporter accompanies Mr. Dargenio to a coffee shop for a chocolate cake break.

…a young couple sat down at a far table. “How you doing?” he called. “Remember me?” They didn’t seem to.

Then:

He looked up and brightened as a woman in a waitress uniform walked in. “I know you,” he said.

She glared at him. “You know me?”

“Sure I do,” said Mr. Dargenio. “From the subway.”

If I were her, I’d be freaked out too.

Other fun tidbits in the story:

* Dargenio gets a 10-minute break in an old token booth where “a note taped to the wall by a previous occupant read: ‘There are rats in the booth. They are in the ceiling.'”

* A roving agent named “Tony Sneakers” who doesn’t like his job quite as much as Dargenio. “Tonight, I had a kid pull down his pants in front of me,” said Sneakers, stationed “in a deserted station in deep Brooklyn late on a Saturday night.”

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