One of the few joys I find in riding the New York City subway is that there is little to no cell phone reception at all. I take pleasure in the fact that I can’t make calls down there. Want to get off the phone with someone who’s talking your ear off? “Hey, uh, listen, I’m gonna have to call you back, I’m about to go into the subway.” They totally get it. It’s fantastic – Unlike being on the bus, where you might find yourself next to someone receiving that my-first-phone-call-out-of jail call (OMG YOU OUT LIKE FOUR MONTHS EARLIER YO, DIS IS CRAZY!), no one, not even Mayor Bloomberg, has enough cell phone service down in there to do anything but send a quick “I’m on my way text” when your train happens to stall beneath a subway grate, miraculously bequeathing you with that one extra bar making text-sending dreams come true.
Everyone knows this. No one has the balls to actually try and carry a conversation on down in that dirty, seedy underground while slumped up against the rest of the poor huddled masses yearning to break free.
Today my subway cell phone solace was shattered by an eight-year-old boy. A child. It was horrible. I had 20 minutes to get down to Times Square, so I decided I could stay on the Local and have some extra reading time instead of taking the Express and having an awkward amount of free time before volunteering. I had just whipped out my Kindle to start my new book, Sarum by Edward Rutherford (I’m on Kindle #3! Keep breaking the damn things), when a young boy gets on with his babysitter and sister at 96th street. He plops down next to me, mid telephone conversation. I sit there for a moment, puzzled, wondering if maybe really wealthy people who buy smart phones for their 8-year-olds have some sort of data plan that reaches the depths of the city streets below.
Well, they don’t. They get the same non-existent service down there as the rest of us, as I soon find out. This is how it went from 96th Street down to 66th:
Between 96th and 86th: “Hey, Jake, so we’re having a pumpkin carving party at my daddy’s house tonight – Jake? Jake? HELLO? HELLOOO?”
86th: “Jake? Hi, it’s me again. So we’re doing a – Jake? JAKE? A pumpkin carving at my daddy’s house – HELLO? HELLO?”
86th – 79th Street: “Hi Jake. Jake? Hi. Okay good. We having a pumpkin carving party at my daddy’s house and I think…HELLOOOOO? Can you hear me? I’m underground. HELLO??”
72nd Street: Hi Jake, so listen, can you hear me? Can you come to the pumpkin carving at daddy’s HELLO??
72nd – 66th: HELLO? JAKE? HELLLLOO?? HELLO?
Me: You know, if you wait until you’re above ground again, I think we’re all quite confident you’ll have plenty of service.
Kid tilts his head up at me so his eyes, shielded by his Mets cap (way too big, probably belonged to daddy), met mine. He blinks twice, and then looks back down at his phone. He exits out of the call feature, and immediately opens up a game. I was pleased. Until I realized the game made noise and the child had no headphones, only some SERIOUS nerve.
This kid made me think of a random memory from my childhood, landing on a plane at some airport circa 2002. They wouldn’t let us immediately off the plane after landing, and some jerk gets on his cell phone, which at the time was rare, and kept repeating to the person on the other end, “IS MY SAAB READY? I’M HERE. I NEED THE SAAB.” And then he pushed his way ahead of everyone else when deplaning, still yapping about the Saab on his phone, it was totally obnoxious. Baseball cap kid will probably grow up to be that guy because he already is him.
I beseech all future mayors, dick pic tweeters included, to please divert all funds from equipping subways (stations, tunnels, platforms, cars, the whole shebang) with cell phone service. Ironically, the subway can be the one place we can all find a little peace and quiet.