Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Please pass this on

Filed under : New York City
On August 26, 2007
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 9

And now, a PSA to tourists. And not that “ha ha, I’m making fun of you by pointing out that you walk slow or wear loud colors or unfold maps in ways that block the whole sidewalk” kind. No, this is real and sincere. Mostly because it’s begun to annoy the hell out of me. See, if you’ve been here you know we use a little thing called a Metrocard to get into the subway (and buses too, but that’s not on my agenda today). You can get them in pay-per-ride and unlimited-for-one-price formats. Say you walk into an entrance of the subway which is kinda dark and kinda empty and there are no humans selling Metrocards, just machines. And a guy who looks like he is either homeless, on drugs, just released from prison, or all three, offers to sell you a swipe of a Metrocard for a dollar (one ride is $2, unless you buy unlimited). Now, I know what you, my wise reader, would do. But what about your friends and neighbors? Why do they always say, “Sure! Thanks! What a deal!”?

After seeing this day after day, I began to ask the tourists (and they always are, seriously) why they do this. Actually, I begin by saying, “um, that’s not legal, you know?” Except for the one guy, who I swear, right in front of his kid said “Yeah, I know, mind your own fucking business,” most people are baffled. “Really?” they say. “How could this be a problem?” I don’t get this at all. How can you not know you’re doing something shady? The ride costs $2, a skeevy person offers to sell it to you for $1. How can this possibly be on the up and up?

Why should I care? Well, there are two reasons. One, I don’t like to come down to the subway after a long day at work and find it full of criminals waiting for their next mark. If people didn’t buy them, they wouldn’t be there. And second, I like you tourists, I really do, you make me look at my city a whole new way, but many times, I’m forced to put up with you. Maybe I’ve mentioned but there are a lot of you, you move slowly, and I have to wait on line behind you at Whole Foods. But I do put up with you because you bring in lots of money. This is the way the world economy works. Next month, the good people of Athens will put up with me because they want my money. It all goes round and round. But when you buy $1 rides from criminals with unlimited cards, that’s $8 (there are four of you on average) that isn’t going to the transit authority. Then there is a shortfall at the MTA. Guess who gets their fare jacked up? You guessed it, me, and all the nice people of New York who have put up with you. Er, your friends and neighbors.

Actually, I got into a whole conversation with a woman who saw me inform the last group of tourists that that was illegal (“really? will we be arrested?”) and asked me incredulously how these people could not know that this wasn’t a good idea. She wasn’t even American originally but had moved from Paris twenty years earlier. Then, as happens to any two strangers in New York who have lived there many years, we both began bemoaning the loss of mom-and-pop stores to the big chains. That’s another lesson for tourists. If you really want to fit in, say, “Remember when this was Shakespeare & Co.? Those were the days.”

Photo by PiratenBraut @ Flickr


9 Comments for this post

  1. kb says:

    I thought you were going to say, “swipe your card and get through the gates already, don’t stop right in front of the gates before examining your card for which way is up, etc.”

    Whenever I’m in London, which is pretty much the only subway system I’m familiar with, I take pride in flying through the gates as if I lived there.

    As far as buying anything from a skeevy-looking person, I categorically renounce it. Mostly because I’m certain that the skeevy-looking person is out to rob me somehow, in some way, even if the deal looks like it would only end up benefitting me. Like scalpers offering reduced price tickets into local festivals. No Thank You I’ll Pay Full Price Like An Idiot If You Don’t Mind.

    It gives me peace of mind, if nothing else.

  2. kay says:


    Remember when this was Shakespeare & Co?

  3. Becca says:

    kb, I often have to help newcomers with their swiping motions. The NYC turnstiles are very picky. It has to be a certain direction and at exactly the right speed. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the train coming and having someone in front of you who cannot figure it out. Sometimes I grab it out of their hands and swipe for them.

    Oh and message to everyone: you do not have to wait for the “Go” message of the person before you to disappear before swiping yours. Start now! You’re slowing down the whole line!

    Aw, Kay, you honorary New Yorker. I knew you’d miss that store.

  4. JF says:

    Check out “la Tour de Pise” by M. Gondry.
    It’s good for your practice..

  5. Becca says:

    JF, in a bizarre coincidence, the video froze right on that line. What am amazing clip; Gondry’s a genius. I can only imagine how much work it took.

    But why didn’t the blogger include this one?:

    (begins at about 3:20)

  6. Soxy says:

    See, I did okay with this. Mostly because I handed you my money and you bought my card…

  7. Becca says:

    Everybody should do that, Soxy.

  8. kay says:

    Shakespeare & Co. was the best. It was on the “must stop” list every trip. I always bought a new volume of poetry there.

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