You know that horrible, dank underground passage that connects Times Square and Port Authority, the one which is just too long for you to hold your breath the whole way through, but you’re kind of scared to inhale, at the same time? If you’ve ever been there, you’ve surely seen the words installed on the overhead beams as you pass by. They read, as you can see in the video above, “Overslept / So tired / If late / Get fired / Why bother? / Why the pain? / Just go home / Do it again.” This is an actual poem called “The Commuter’s Lament/A Close Shave,” by Norman Colp, and it has been there for 20 years, announcing its perfectly New York message to the world, until recently two college students tried to make it happy. What nerve.
Botwinick, 20, and his friend Margot Reinstein brought a stepladder into the tunnel late on Saturday night and papered over the poem — conscientiously, so as to keep similar letters and the same rhyme scheme — but changing “Overslept” to “overexcited,” “so tired” to “energized,” and “Why the pain?” to “Much to gain” among other fixes for happiness-promoting, reports the Daily News.
“I took the same poem and just made it more optimistic,” said Botwinick.
However, Colp’s widow did not take a fancy to the changes, which were still posted as of yesterday, and said, “Why be optimistic in these times? Be realistic — life sucks. You get through it the best you can.”
The MTA didn’t like it, either:
“What a disrespectful thing to do,” fumed Sandra Bloodworth, director of MTA Arts for Transit, the agency that sponsored the $5000 project in 1991.
Everyone should be glad to know, though, that as of this morning, the depressing balance in the world had been righted and the poem is back to its grim self.
Are we happy now? Doubtful. But when did that mean anything, really? Happiness is for chumps.