This story was going to be called Switchin', but on reflection, I realized that this would do a disservice to our subject. Let me explain.
One day, in the 1980s, I found myself with a California real estate broker in his luxury automobile. He was showing off his hands-free cell phone mounted to the interior of his car - a big deal at the time. He received a call from his office regarding a particularly difficult situation with a client. Not to worry, he said, because he was adept at turning lemons into lemonade.
It was the first time I had heard this old saying, and I loved it. The broker could be perhaps better characterized as someone who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, but nonetheless, turning lemons to lemonade became a popular code phrase in my office when help was needed in dealing with a particularly difficult customer situation. When these calls were forwarded to me, I liked the challenge of making lemonade.
Subway service disruption is one of the most frustrating things that NYC commuters face on weekends. You can read about the reasons for this here. On Saturday evening, a friend and I decided to travel to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, by subway (rather than drive) to eat at First Oasis Restaurant, which is conveniently located on a subway line. Weekend travel on the train can actually be relaxing. However, no sooner had we started our journey that the service disruption monster raised its head, with a litany of arcane and sometimes unintelligible instructions barked from a poor speaker system over the ambient din.
Our fellow rider seen in the photo (who we learned on parting was Reverend Branch) immediately volunteered a translation and interpretation. He was going our way, and soon we were taken under his wing. He was a warm, avuncular human being and we took to him immediately. He parsed all the subway speak and disruption details and informed us of every train change and switching option. Switching trains (local to express and vice versa, etc.) from one track to another across station platforms is a common strategy used by experienced riders to save travel time.
At one point, the Reverend proposed running across the platform to catch another train that was pulling in, and we happily followed. Soon we were criss-crossing platforms, with the Reverend explaining every possible scenario and station detail. Where many would groan about disruption, the Reverend was turning lemons into lemonade, and we were drinking as fast as we could. This was actually fun.
Never believe what you hear about New Yorkers. Reach out when the opportunity presents itself, and I will guarantee that most often you will find warm humans and, if you are lucky, a Lemonade Maker :)
About Reverend Branch: The Reverend is Community Liaison for the High School of Sports Management Celebrity/Charity Softball Game. See their website here.
Note: I certainly do not want appear insensitive to those commuters who have to put up with subway service disruption on a regular basis. I know that our journey was not fraught with the anxiety of getting to work or another destination in a timely manner.