Subway Submersion

Parts of the New York Subway System are underwater following Hurricane Sandy. It will take a while to get things back to normal – water has to be pumped out of tunnels and salty residue must be removed from the rails. Think of all the wet garbage and drowned rats! Ugh.

There is an underground world in Manhattan. This storm-induced interruption in service will force regular subway travelers to take busses, taxis, cars, or their own feet to the next destination. I wonder how that will change their experience, and if any of them will hesitate to return to the tunnels once the subways are up (or should I say down?) and running.

A fascinating subway-based project of the New York Public Library is this extensive series of photographs of people submerged in their books. Underground. Click on any of the photos and you will find out what the engulfed travelers are reading.

In some cases the photographer doesn’t know what the rider is reading, and apparently doesn’t ask. In such a case, the question is opened up to online readers, who invariably come up with an answer. Here’s an example of a query about a book. Here’s a close up of the cover. Good luck with that. How do people figure it out?

Only in New York could you do this sort of thing. May the subways be restored quickly!

Can you read while in motion? What would you read on the subway?

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45 thoughts on “Subway Submersion”

  1. There is a website even odder than this blog. How creative.
    Nope, get sicker’n than a drown rat if I read in motion. On the Chicago subway (yes, parts of the Chicago systems, two of the actually, are underground) I just watched people trying to look numb, or were they numb?

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  2. I can read whilst moving. When I was 16 I found myself on a bus very early in the morning traveling between Saltillo, Mexico and Mexico City as the sun rose over the desert. I was reading something by Carlos Casteneda. It was a creepy and wonderful experience. I would be too anxious to read in the subway, worrying that I might miss my stop.

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  3. I can read a newspaper in short snatches if I look up frequently. It’s a mistake to get engrossed, though – I will find myself with motion sickness after ten minutes or so. I am much better off listening to music. When I was commuting by bus every day I usually had a walkman.

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  4. I can read books while riding in a car or bus or plane (have not traveled by train, so haven’t tried that yet). However I cannot read maps while riding in a car.

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    1. I guess you wouldn’t be a very good get away driver for all those bank heists. What if you got lost? You’d have to stop the car to read the map.

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      1. It’s all in the planning. Plan the route – and possible routes – ahead of time, memorize as much of the map as you can, and trust to luck.

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  5. How odd – it’s 3:00 (well, 2:00 where y’all are) and this is merey the 6th comment!

    I am fine reading while in motion, with the exception of very windy roads, which are nauseating whether I’m reading or not. I did read on the subways and busses back in the day – anything I could get my hands on… probably most of the Tolkein trilogy, among others.

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  6. I used to have trouble reading while in motion but, happily, I can do it fine now.
    At least I think I can. I’m not often a passenger in a car. When I am, it’s either my duty to talk to the driver to keep him/her awake or I’m allowed to sleep. Both reading and riding make me sleepy so I probably wouldn’t last long anyway.
    I can read on trains and planes but that pesky sleeping thing comes into play there, too.

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  7. On commuter trains and busses I can read just fine, but on longer train or bus rides, I’d rather look out the window if it’s daylight. Same thing on planes; if there’s anything other than ocean or clouds to look at, I enjoy looking down on whatever we’re flying over. My reading material can be anything and everything. I also like to do Sudokus on longer travels, helps pass the time.

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  8. I just figured out why there were comments that I wasn’t seeing on the Superman path! Doh.

    I am very lucky; almost no motion sickness and no jetlag. I can read in the car, on the bus, train, plane, you name it. My biggest problem is actually trying to figure out how much reading material I will need for longer flights. I have often finished off what I’ve brought along and then have to resort to the in flight magazines. Have a long trip next week — think I’ll drag more than two books with me on the plane this time!

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  9. I couldn’t read in a moving car when I was younger. I haven’t tried to read in a moving car for years because I’m almost always the driver. I love to look at the scenery though, and probably wouldn’t choose to read while traveling anymore. I even like landscapes that are boring for most people.

    My s-i-l sent me a picture of my neice dressed up as Hermione for Halloween. It is just so cute!

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      1. No, they’re not into facebook. I don’t want to post the picture on my page because I don’t think they’d want me to. It’s darn cute, though.

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  10. i think this is where nook kindle and ipad come in handy. download stuff surf the choices or internet if you are in range and the world is yours. my problem with reading on trains in foreign locations is that i lose my spot and spend more time finding the last sentence and trying to remember the storyline than i do reading. i have varying taste for reading material so the book of the moment may be a book club thing or an oldie i have been meaning to get to from the stack on my bedside table. when i used to travel to china often i would grab 4 or 5 things and pick up more on the road. now i have hundred to choose from and get to way to little of it.

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    1. I’ve just closed down due to running out of candy, guessing roughly fifty or so trick or treaters. I commented to one little girl wearing a beautiful orange wig “Wow, what beautiful hair you have.” “It’s not real” she replied. Had to laugh at that one.

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        1. I don’t think so, Holly. This little girl’s wig was not nearly as wild as Brave’s hair, in fact, it was very smooth and orderly.

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        2. My daughter and I saw Brave at the movie theater this summer. She is 28 and I am 58. We both loved it and cried over the fact that it was a perfect mother/daughter movie. We are both too old for cartoons… NOT!!!

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    2. I’m closing it down too — only 12 kids this year. I usually run out of candy like PJ. Very strange. Although I did enjoy Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein while I waited for trick or treaters!

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  11. I used to commute to downtown Minneapolis on the bus, and I read a lot on the bus. Although I went to college in Pennsylvania and sometimes took trains (or subways) when on the east coast, the only train I have ridden recently was the Amtrak to Seattle a few years ago, and I spent a lot more time looking out the window than reading. I once read Moby Dick while flying to England. (Well, I also read it flying from England and for odd pieces of the next month or so…)
    Based on my Minneapolis bus experience, I would probably read anything I could get on the subway. if I happened to mysteriously suddenly find myself riding the subway. I think I agree with Tim, this is one place where a Nook or Kindle or iPad would be very handy, because it would be easier to keep enough reading material handy.

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  12. Dale, thank you for the remarkable website—Underground NY Library. The photographs are amazing!! and love that people identify the books without being able to see the titles.

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  13. In a car, I can only read for about 20 minutes before taking a break. I had never had a problem reading on the bus until one day doing a crossword puzzle. I was so engrossed in the puzzle that I missed the signs until I was almost ill. Somehow, I made it to work, went into my office and had to lie on the floor for about half and hour before the world stopped turning—alarmed a couple of coworkers. I was weak for about an hour after that. I am much more careful now.

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