Ok so there was this incident a couple of weeks ago. I was going to work in the morning, about to enter the L train, at the Lorimer stop on Union Ave., where there is just one turnstile btw, and I swipe my metrocard, but I get the “Please Swipe Again” message, which is totally fine, this can happen once in a while. I slide my card through another time, but still: please swipe again. There’s one person behind me at this point, “I swear this never happens to me,” I chuckle, no problem, these machines are old, just need to finesse it through, I swipe for a third time, please swipe again, I check my card, everything seems fine, no bumps or whatnot, there are now three people behind me checking their watches, beep, please swipe again, beep beep, please swipe again, AGAIN, my heart begins to race, this is not my fault, this is a brand new TransitCheck, beep, please swipe again, beep beep beep, AHHH, by this point the line behind me has reached critical mass, I can hear the train coming, the pitchforks are out, so I have to step aside, and wouldn’t you know it, the person right behind me, she swipes, gets a green “GO” message the first time, some tool snickers three people behind her, and as I stand there wholly embarrassed, half-watching commuters younger than me having swipe-success after swipe-success, it all becomes perfeclty clear: it’s me. It wasn’t my card, or the dumb machine, some malfunction, it was dumb me. Something was wrong with my swiping technique. (thunder crashes)
Now, when we first come to nyc, by nature of our lack of experience, we’re all pretty terrible swipers, and I was a particularly sorry case since, as you probably know, I have a tendency to be jumpy and imprecise in all I do. No yeah, I was laughable, I was all erratic, I wasn’t sure which way the card should go, I would start blowing on the card, for some reason, as if it were an old Nintendo cartridge, but slowly over time, I began to hone my technique, not too fast but certainly not too slow, the key is following through, you’ve gotta want it. And I’ve also found that (I’ve never told this to anyone), if I think about Jazz while I’m swiping, my motion gets even more fluid, almost musical. But that’s just me. I’ve heard people say they recite their shopping list as they swipe: Mushroom Soup, Broccoli, Pound of Ham, Beep. Hey, whatever gets you on that train buddy, who am I to judge, right?
And then this incident occurs, which completely shatters my swipe-confidence. Yeah it’s bad, I’ve basically regressed to tourist status. Sometimes it takes me five swipes to get it right. Small-framed Korean women, they can hardly speak English (God love them), they’re trying to teach me how to swipe, “No no no, do this, like this,” it’s humiliating. Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, they’re not working anymore. I’m right where I started. But, hey, I’ll get there again, I’ll get by. I imagine what I’m feeling is sort of like someone who’s just had a really bad stroke, you know, they lost the ability to speak, and have to physically re-learn how to form sentences, bit by bit. Slowly, through swiping and unswiping, practice and patience, I imagine I’ll get there too. That is, if I’m one of the lucky ones.