It’s not something anyone who lives in NYC wants to think about, or does think about very often, since it’s impossible to 1.) do anything about, and 2.) ever take public transit if you concentrate too hard on all of the things that can go wrong.
But being stuck in a tunnel under the East River after your subway has come to an emergency stop and smoke has filled the car is something that does, occasionally, happen.
And I’m not saying it’s because I was on that particular train that it happened yesterday. Even I don’t think my bad transportation luck travels far enough to cause that sort of nightmare and system-wide frustration. Still, I happened to be on the train that malfunctioned, and I happened to witness what happens when you think you might die for a few minutes.
Surprisingly, it’s rather calm. That’s because, I assume, we all–all 500-some of us on that train at that time trudging reluctantly to work on a Monday morning–understood there was nothing to be done. In those minutes between the train stopping, the smoke starting, and the train conductor figuring out what had caused these things, we were all acutely aware that we were trapped. Were it a life-threatening emergency and not simply a piece of the train that had flown off and hit the third rail, we wouldn’t have been able to react any differently. We would still have to stand there, unmoving, staring out the windows and recognizing there was nowhere to go in the cramped tunnel even if we had wanted to escape the relative safety of the train car.
Luckily, we also got to stand there for another hour while we waited for the rescue train to come take us to the next station.
It’s the closest I’ve ever consciously come to a near-death experience, and while I can’t say it’s given me any sort of special insight or unique appreciation for life above and beyond what we all feel when we bother to stop and think about the gift of waking up each morning, I can say I’m glad I’ve made it 3 decades on this earth without having experienced it before.
Now I’m just hoping for 3 more decades before I experience it again.