Last night I walked through the tunnel between (as they used to be known, and many native New Yorkers over the age of 30 still think of them) the BMT and IRT subway lines at Times Square, and again noticed the "Burma Shave"-style poetry on signs gracing the I-beams above:
Why the pain?
Just go home
Do it again.
--"The Commuter's Lament/A Close Shave," 1991, Normal B. Colp (d. 2007)
I haven't read the poem as often as many commuters--my parents taught me to avoid this tunnel at all costs and, even though Times Square is no longer dirty and gross, I still heed those words. But whenever I need to make the transfer, and remember to look up and then down again to watch people scowling and rushing past, I am transported back into the numbing drudgery of every bad job I've ever had. If poetry is a reflection of life, Mr. Colp's perfectly terse words are a mirror of the DNA of working New Yorkers. Existential angst lives forever between the BMT and IRT (except perhaps on New Year's Eve, when Times Square is transformed into an orgy of drunken denial).
The best part of walking through this tunnel is passing the stairway to the #7 train (my route back to Queens as a kid), and continuing on to the #1 (home). My life in concrete. There's usually a musician playing on the #1 train platform, maybe a guy with a weird electric violin or a flautist who might be a student at Julliard, reminding me why it's always important to keep moving until I get to the other end of that passageway.