Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Very First Time

Although I don’t have a “bucket list” per se, I accomplished one item that—had I decided to make one—would very definitely have be on it. Courtesy of an annoying twist of circumstances, I found myself yesterday morning in the long mezzanine area of the Manhattan A train’s 14th Street subway station. Were it not for the Number 1 train’s seemingly infinite weekend track work—or, in this case, station makeovers, which compelled me to walk more than a mile to get the subway, instead of the usual few blocks—I wouldn’t have been there. Yes, I could have taken a free shuttle bus, or even a local bus, but since it was such a fine October morning, I opted for the leisurely stroll and the exercise.

It was about 10:30 when I found myself in this sprawling “mezzanine,” a word I typically associate with sports stadiums. While I’ve walked these subterranean thoroughfares before and spied various closed doors along the way, they invariably seem marked as “employee only” entrances for transit workers. But, lo and behold, this time I detected an apparent civilian exiting one of those doors, which prompted me to more closely examine the placard attached to it. The sign indicated he had emerged from a public bathroom—one that would, of course, be locked tight during the late-night hours.

While I had to go from my morning coffee, I really could have held it in for the immediate future. But then, I thought, where would I go when my time had come—the Barnes & Noble at Union Square? No, certainly not yesterday—a Saturday on a Columbus Day weekend with Wall Street protesters in the area undoubtedly heeding nature’s call there. So, I decided to take my chances with this subway bathroom. While I don’t recall ever frequenting one—since most of them were padlocked shut, with reputations that, even when open for business, suggested looking elsewhere—I nonetheless took the plunge.

Happily, I was all by my lonesome when I entered this realm of the unknown and accomplished what I set out to do. Still, I must admit, the subway bathroom milieu didn’t disappoint. It reeked pretty badly and looked appropriately grungy—but it wasn’t completely hellish. And while the urinal flushed readily, it didn’t flush away any of the urine stench wafting in the rarefied air, which evidently was ingrained in the floor and wall tiles. But at least now I can say: Been there and done that…another New York experience for this New Yorker in the books.

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