Maybe it's just physics. Perhaps all things, even bad ideas, have their own sort of momentum. The December, 2005 NYC Transit Strike may be one such idea. I part think a lot of people wanted it to happen just to see what would happen. Is it pessimistic to believe that we're collectively even more twisted in terms of desire for spectacle than some of us are individually? Of course, it could just be me who thinks that a lot of people actually wanted to see what would happen. No doubt there's been loss and inconvenience. Economic and perhaps otherwise. Still, I think watching this unfold involved the same kind of proverbial morbid object fixation that slows down traffic to see a car accident.
So what did happen? I don't think we all really know yet. Now that it's over, in spite of the fallout it seems like almost a non-event. A brief adventure in collective struggle. Even as a bargain is reached on Wednesday, 12/28, there's only the briefest of news coverage. And hardly any recap of what went on. Where are the lessons learned? What kind of things happened during this event? Really now. How did government handle it? (Personally I give Mayor Mike a thumbs up on this one.) By the way, how is the fireman who was hit by a car while riding his bike to work? How many other people, if any, were hurt or suffered loss due to slowed EMS response, inability to get medications or who shouldn't have been exerting themselves to the degree they did?
There's probably some good, bad and ugly that went on during the whole thing. And some things I just don't really understand. I'm going to list just a few and maybe others can comment as well.
Stuff I Don't Understand
- Where were the T-shirt guys? It wasn't even that cold. This is NYC. Why weren't the "I Survived Strike '05" T-shirts on sale by mid-AM on day one??? Is the simple answer that those guys would have all needed to use transit to get to their street corners???
- How/why did some people manage to drive into town with under 4 people in the car? I'm not a big fan of mass media myself, but you had to have your head really firmly all the way up your a#$ to miss the word on that requirement.
- NYCers did show the world, yet again, that the people that live and work here just aren't all that evil. In fact, people's patience in this case is even more impressive considering just what happened. That is, I think NYers are generally fairly tolerant in lot of ways, but for the one real sin you can commit in NY. And that's "Don't Get In The Way." Don't get in the way of business. Don't hesitate at the green light. Don't get between me and... whatever. DON'T SLOW ME DOWN. Maybe everyone was happy for the excuse to kick it down a notch.
- Bicycle shops apparently stepped up their business. Though I'm not quite sure this is all good. I saw one newscast with a woman who hadn't been on a bike in years weaving her way out of the bike shop. She ended up taking a cab home, but I wonder... is she now a) thinking she wasted some money, b) going to go get herself killed trying to actually use the thing in traffic. (Maybe this should have been in the bad category.)
- Will there be a Transit Strike Marriage/Baby Effect? Like blackout babies and other storm events, this one put people together in new and interesting ways. Cab sharing that otherwise wouldn't have occurred, drivers picking up people they didn't know who got into cars with drivers they didn't know. Had to have been some relationships formed out of all this. (The cynical might also think a carjacking or two, but I guess we can add to the good section that this didn't seem to happen.)
- A not fully earned sense of self-satisfaction on the part of all those who think they handled themselves so well. This may just be pessimism on my part, but I really wonder how good a job we all would have been doing with it had things gone on another week or so.
- In a lot of ways, for a lot of people, it was almost like losing a whole bunch of quality out of their lives. Maybe just a few days, but still... hours more spent in traffic or on foot meant that much more time away from home or family or friends or personal time. There was no way to plan doing much of anything in the evening, etc. This happens occasionally as a matter of course due to occasional extreme weather events and such, but this thing was clearly of people's own doing. An inability to reach an agreement, (which was subsequently reached just fine while people were working), resulted in a very small group disproportionately affecting MILLIONS of people's lives.
- People were injured as a direct result of this situation.
- People were economically hit, some very hard. Those at the lower end of the economic spectrum can ill afford several days - or in the case of the MTA workers themselves - a week or more worth of missing paycheck.
- While commuting with some co-workers, we came across a hithhiker. He had a sign. But this wasn't some vagabond hippie with a knapsack and the sign didn't say "Anywhere West" or anything like that. The guy had what appeared to be a decent overcoat and I think a suit underneath. And the cardboard sign said, "Wall Street." You kind of had to be there, but it was pretty funny. Sadly, we didn't have room to help him out and we weren't going all the way downtown anyway. If I'd thought of it sooner, I'd have tossed him a quarter though.
Like the stories from the nyc blackout of 2003 and the occasional massive snowstorm, the Transit Strike of 2005 adds itself to those special slices of life that only a city like New York can really provide. I wonder what's going to happen next?