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That Dear Old Dirty Town

“Dilbert” author Scott Adams travels to New York and learns about the subway:

Once armed with your little card, you swipe it on the turnstile. This is a frightening experience because there are at least nine wrong ways to swipe a card in a turnstile. I discovered all of them as a line of impatient New Yorkers formed behind me. I was holding the card the right way, and swiping it in the right direction, but as a uniformed guard eventually showed me, there is also something about the speed, trajectory, and possibly your state of mind that is also necessary for the turnstile to accept the card. I don’t know how many times the turnstile has to reject you before the guy with the badge puts his knee on your neck and starts yelling €œDO NOT RESIST! € but I am sure I was close to the limit.
This happens to be a highly accurate explanation of the subway turnstile system—and state of mind, it turns out, matters quite a bit. It takes some discipline and finesse, but one can reliably power through a subway turnstile without slowing or pausing by observing a few simple rules.

One, you must suavely, unthinkingly, extract your MetroCard from a breast pocket on approach to the turnstile; two, you must walk determinedly, passing and dekeing several people on your way to the turnstile; three, fix your eyes on the prize—your subway awaiting thither—and do not look down at the MetroCard reader, for it senses hesitation; four, think I am more important than this subway station as your card swims through the reader; five, proceed through the turnstile with all the weight and inertia you can gather, never supposing for a moment that the puny metallic concomitant might interdict the execution of your important business. Also, wait for the click so that you do not make an ass of yourself.

Meanwhile, before I retire, allow me to share two more important bits of information about New York City.

THE BEST BARBERS are those at Paul Mole, the spartan, efficient, lovely men’s barbershop on 74th and Lexington. If you have time, allow them to give you a shave, too. It costs more than two bits, but it is worth it. Bring cash.

THE BEST TAILOR is a man called Joseph at 7 Dey Street between Broadway and Church. Joseph is a brilliant bald man with a manner sufficiently Italianate that he was, for a spell, Rudy Giuliani’s tailor. He had a hand in solving Rudy’s shoulder-slump issue, which is a serious but rarely diagnosed problem with some men.

That is all.


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