New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Blown Cover

I left work in a hurry because I had to get to karate by 6:45 p.m. and it was 6:20 when I walked out the door and I needed time to change into my gi. I rushed along 57th Street, past the dense clumps of tourists standing between their buses and the Hard Rock Cafe, to the subway station at 57th and Seventh. (That's how you get to Carnegie Hall, by the way. Take the N,R, Q, or W trains. No problem!)

I bounded down the stairs to the subway and as I went past the token booth area toward the turnstiles my internal aggressive activity alarm started buzzing a little bit.

Oh brother. Some dude was bugging out at the booth.

I thought "is this the theme of the day, people losing their cool in the subway system?"

But this one felt a little different.

A guy was yelling at the token booth attendant. It was a white guy with short hair, wearing jeans and a light jacket.

He was shoving dollar bills under the glass to the booth attendant and saying, "fine, here's two dollars. Take it if you want it so bad!" The clerk said something back but I couldn't hear it.

Then the guy yelled at the token booth clerk "you're supposed to just let me in, you know, you're not supposed to make a big announcement over the intercom." I had just gone through the turnstile at this point.

Honestly, I had it figured out before he even finished. Really. Call it New Yorker intuition.

The guy was an undercover cop.

The clerk is supposed to buzz cops through the gate when they walk by and flash their badges in the booth window. But the clerk is also supposed to be vigilant about who he buzzes in. So naturally there is some friction between token booth clerks and cops sometimes.

I think the cop saw me looking at him as I was walking by, because he came down the stairs to the downtown platform (where I was waiting for a local) and he really gave me a look as he went by. He could tell that I noticed the exchange with the clerk. It was kind of a weird moment. I was looking at his jacket as he walked by to see if there was the bulge from a gun. I couldn't see one.

A train had just left, so we were both standing there for a few awkward moments. I slowly reached down into my bag and pulled out my Bill Bryson book and started reading.

Then an N train came and I couldn't take it because the N goes express south of Times Square and I was going to the dojo on 23rd. The cop looked around, looked at the people getting off the train before he got on the train as cops often do, and then he got on the train and was gone.

So this incident was far more mild than the incident on the L train this morning, and I think that maybe the cop regretted raising his voice to the clerk.

I didn't hear what the clerk said to the cop, just like I didn't hear what the hipster said to the black dude this morning. But I did hear what the cop said in response, just like I (and about a hundred other people) heard what the black guy said in response to whatever the hipster said to him on the subway.

The cop blew his own cover to me. He didn't need the token booth clerk's help to do it. He lost control of his emotions and the result was compromising his own job. Fortunately there were no negative consequences.

And the guy this morning blew his cover as a nut job. If he would have stayed quiet I would have never known.

I did make it to karate on time and it was great. It was such a good workout, and the promotion test for black belt candidates is still going on, so I got to help with that. I got flipped on my back pretty hard helping one guy demonstrate intermediate self defense number 10, left punch coming. It was my own fault for not doing a better roll. I knew it was coming. Anyway I'm fine.

I left the dojo feeling so much better mentally than I felt during the day. Today was a warm day which was great but the circulation in our office was lousy and I felt sweaty and clammy and officey and just generally gross. Then we had a good workout and I got really sweaty and I actually felt cleaner. It was almost like taking a shower. And then when I got home and took an actual shower it was the shower of champions.

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