The A Train

It takes about two minutes, certainly no more, for the A train to get from Penn Station (34th) to 14th Street. Today, 3 young men got on at 34th. They were not handsome—a real motley crew, in stained, old clothes, very plain, black, white and gray. They smelt of a locker room and I soon learned why.

“Your attention please, please, your attention please. Those of you in the middle, please step out the way, the show is about to begin.”

--Boom-boom-chick, boom-boom-chick—from a little radio on the floor.

“Here we go!”

Then, two minutes of old-school eighties-style break-dancing in the car as we hurtled downtown, including those great wrist-to-wrist upper body rolls, cartwheels, somersaults, two-man cartwheels (“Do not try this at home, ladies and gentlemen!”), one-handed push ups. Many riders looked embarrassed or wary that they were about to be had somehow (by itinerant dancers?), but the sweet-faced young Jamaican woman who’d been singing to herself earlier, the toothless elderly woman thumbing the Zabar’s catalogue, and I looked on in admiration.

Jamaica only had a ten—they weren’t worth that—but Zabar’s and I each put a dollar in the hat. Hefty nurse and a few others followed suit. We pulled into the 14th Street station and they were gone.