Friday evening I found myself on a Queens underground subway platform waiting for the E train. At that late hour the trains seem to come as frequently as Haley’s Comet so I started to pace back and forth across the platform in a futile effort to pass the time. After a while I noticed an MTA employee on the opposite platform using some sort of a buffing machine to clean the floor.
The man was pushing the machine back and forth squirting liquid over the filthy floor, and then using the circular brushes to spread and scrub the detergent in. I then noticed that there was a man sleeping on a nearby bench with his feet dangling on to the floor. I thought it amusing when the bravely meticulous MTA worker actually woke the man up to ask him to lift his feet so he could clean that area. Surprisingly, the man complied immediately without a problem.
Suddenly another MTA worker came down the stairs at the end of the platform and approached the worker who was cleaning the floors. They greeted each other then went into a conversation that I was able to hear word for word due to the quiet emptiness of the station. Not having anything better to do, I listened closely.
After some initial small-talk, the second MTA employee asked the guy working the machine if he would be agreeable to an idea where current MTA employees would give $5 a week to go for MTA employees who have been laid off. The man explained that they (I’m guessing MTA union) were asking around to see how others felt about the proposal. He explained that it would amount to a $10 deduction per bi-weekly paycheck.
I could see by the body language of the first guy that he wasn’t crazy about the idea. He took several seconds before he gave this ineloquent yet straight forward answer which I immediately stored into my Smartphone.
“I feel bad for the people who are laid off, but I have to take care of my shit too!”
I guess the second guy took it as a no, and walked back up the stairs and out of sight. The first guy cleaning the platform shot me a quick look; the kind of look when you realize that someone may have been listening to your conversation. I nonchalantly stared towards the tunnel pretending to be oblivious.
So much for looking out for your fellow union members! I was a lot more amused than I was surprised.