Are you one of the many who met the news that commuters would be able to use their cell phones at a handful of subway stations starting next Tuesday with a drawn-out sigh and perhaps a groan, or maybe a “Why, God, why?”? Are you imagining horrible, coffee-less, already-running-late tragic mornings trapped next to some gabby loud-talker who spits and and keeps hitting you in the arm with his or her wet umbrella while speaking dramatically to whomever it is on the other line in inane, buffoonish bursts, punctuated by “I can’t hear you”s? Don’t freak out yet. First: Only some subway stations — the L and A/C/E at Eighth, the 14th Street 1/2/3, the F/M/L at 14th and Sixth, and the 23rd Street C/E will have service, to start, and it will only be for AT&T and T-Mobile customers. Further, it’s the platform (and stairs, and mezzanines), not the actual train. The actual train remains sacrosanct. It is where we will all eventually want to vacation.
You know, sometimes the platform already has a bit of service. This is not so very different, then. And, even if service isn’t spotty (and how could it not be — sometimes it’s bad above ground!) you can still tell your boss with impunity that you didn’t get his call or your mother that you’ll have to call her back because — oh — you’re cutting out, or — oh — your train’s here!
Still, it’s bound to be annoying. As we’ve seen before, people are not always on their best behavior on the subway, and we cannot count on them to be so now.
The good news: If someone is on his or her phone, they are not speaking to you, nor doing yoga, nor gazing at you in a mildly threatening manner while picking at their teeth with what looks to be a tree branch, or a knife. They are talking on their phone. Maybe, in the long run, this will cut down on annoying subway personal interactions, and people will simply retreat into their technological services for all the companionship and human interaction they need, and then seek those connections out when they fail to naturally occur, on Craigslist Missed Connections.
All underground subway stations are expected to have service by 2016 (the MTA is hoping to earn at least $30 million dollars over 10 years from the deal), at which point, you will probably have a tiny cell phone chip implanted in your body that you talk through constantly, like one of those traders of yore, and you will recollect fondly upon the old days without cell service on subways as akin to tromping barefoot through the snow 50 miles to get to school in the winter, which you never actually did, growing up in the suburbs of Jersey and being driven to school in a minivan, but one can always dream. Anything’s possible in this modern world!