Ode to the MTA

Subway TokenI’d be in big trouble if it weren’t for the NYC Mass Transit Authority. And while it’s not always perfect, it gets the job done.  Most of my commuting over several decades has been within Manhattan and Queens with less frequent trips to the Bronx and Brooklyn, but after taking thousands of subway rides I feel the subway system is due some love from me so here goes.


Hail the MTA

For their trains with power and grace

Transporting millions of commuters

From place to place


Love the E train’s speed

Except on weekends

When it grinds to a halt

And often offends


With constant track work

And regular delays

Taunting strap hangers

Until the end of Sunday


Remember the 9?

It lasted just a few years

Then vaporized into the ether

And never again did appear


Spent years on the Shuttle

Waiting forever near the track

For a train that simply

Goes east to west and back


Took many rides on the A train

With one open eye

Often missing my stop

And ending up at street 125


Years later came the V then the M

To ease F train congestion

Whether it helped or not

Is still a big question


The 1, 2 and 3

The 6, 5 and 4

Narrower than the other trains

Struggling to get in the door


And once I squeeze in

I wish I had not

Because I’m standing next to a man

Using 5 seats as a cot


Back in the 80’s

The 1 train was so seedy

Every foot covered

With so much graffiti


For a change of pace

I ride the 7

Above ground with phone reception

It’s like a small slice of heaven


For my work commute

I prefer the B

But usually draw the short straw

And end up on the C


Take a ride on the N train

If you want  food that is Greek

Often served with strong Ouzo

That is not for the meek


If I can’t get an E train

I favor the F

With its loud screeching wheels

That will make you go deaf


Taking the D train

I’m never satisfied

Muttering under my breath

It’s not the train I wish to ride


The J/Z and  L lines

I must confide

I only rode once

And as for the Q, I was never inside


I remember the G train

My childhood ride

With seats of sharp wicker

Piercing my side


Ugly and green

It looked like a tank

Had no air conditioning

Man, that ride stank


Now I hop on the R train

To visit my childhood stop

Back then the fare was 20 cents

Compared to the $2.50 I now drop


But I’m not complaining

The subway’s still got appeal

With transportation to four boroughs

It’s still a great deal



What’s in a Name?

nameMy mother had my name picked out before she had a husband picked out. She had three friends named Barbara and wanted a daughter with the same name. At first glance, this sounds like a heartwarming story about why I like my name, until one realizes that most women with the name Barbara are usually pushing 80. Barbara was the third most popular  name in the US for girls born in the 1930’s. By the 1960’s the name was losing popularity and today the name isn’t even on the list. I’m the youngest Barbara I know and many of the others I know with the same name are at least ten years my senior. Unlike boy’s names, many of which seem timeless, the popularity of girl’s names seems to change like the wind. The popular names of my generation such as Lisa, Susan, Karen, Debra, and Donna are rarely given to kids today and we’ve all been replaced by girls with names like Madison, Destiny, Sydney, and Brianna. Brooklyn and even Bronx have become popular names; I’m hoping some kid is named Queens soon. At least it’s more likely than being named Staten Island. ( I think).

My mother used to like to tell me about the origins of my name and how it  meant “little stranger.” But once I started doing my own research, I noticed that many simply translated it as “strange,” which while possibly a more accurate way of describing me, doesn’t have the sweetness and innocence of “little stranger.”

The funny thing about my name is that few people actually refer to me by it. It’s as if it’s too much of a mouthful for anyone with all those redundant syllables and repeating letters. People call me different names depending on what period in my life they met me. Friends from high school often call me Barbie, some call me Bobbie, others call me Babs and everyone I have ever met from outside of the five boroughs calls  me Barb. My own father hardly called me by my name, favoring his limitless nicknames including Barbie doll, sweetie-petitee, and the questionable Boober.

At this point I think there are only two people on the planet who call me Barbara; my mother, who has been so attached to the name for close to 80 years that she would never think of shortening or otherwise butchering it, and the Goy/Mench who always called me Barbara in his perfectly pitched Queens accent.

Don’t get me wrong; I like my name and it certainly has its upsides. I saved a lot of time when taking the SATs because when I filled in the bubbles on the answer sheet to write my name, I  only had to find three letters and then repeat them two or even three times. I didn’t usually have to repeat my name to strangers or spell it out (well, until Barbra Streisand came along, confused everyone, and screwed things up for the Barbaras who had been following the rules and spelling the name correctly all along).

But these days it’s getting harder to carry this name. I’m sure if I had to apply for a job, a hiring manager would take one look at my name on my resume and assume I was hiding 30 years of work experience. When I am in situations now where I need to say my name, it takes longer for it to register with people. Case in point, I went into a coffee shop the other day where they ask your name and write it on the cup.  I ended up with a skinny mocha latte marked Aruba.