We’re reading the fairly fun Super Sad True Love Story, by the usually quite clever Gary Shteyngart, a Russian-born young author who’s been in New York for several years.
Shteyngart imagines a USA in the not that far off future, when our currency is tethered to China’s yuan, where we are at war with Venezuela, where New Yorkers can see their credit scores on poles erected on city streets, and everyone stares at Blackberry-like devices called apparats (there are several umlauts hovering over “apparats”).
Oh, and the New York City subway has first-class seating.
Our protagonist, a sadsack named Lenny Abramov, takes his young date on the subway.
“So, to compensate for my poor neighborhood, I paid the extra ten dollars each at the F train stop and got us into business-class carriage. As Vish had drunkenly told me the other night, our city’s dying transit is now run on a for-profit basis by a bunch of ARA-friendly corporations under the slogan ‘Together We’ll Go Somewhere Together.’ In business class, we had the run of the cozy, already slightly browned sofas and the bulky apparati chained to a coffee table and dusted with fingerprints and spilled drinks. Heavily armed National Guardsmen kept our carriage free of the ubiquitous singing beggars, break-dancers, and destitute families begging for a Healthcare voucher, the ragtag gaggle of Low Net Worth Individuals who had turned the regular cars into a soundstage for their talents and woes. In business, we were allowed a thousand discrete moments of underground peace.”
And while Lenny Abramov is paying a huge premium to ride the subway, a flyer on our Metro-North train’s seats yesterday informed us we’ll be paying 11% more for the priviledge of riding the train in a few weeks. Maybe we’ll all be begging for Healthcare vouchers someday soon.