Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Welcome to New York.

I took the photo below a couple of weeks ago; I'm sure by now the joint is all decked out for Christmas.

This is not from the factory that makes Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, but I must confess every time I see that PABT it's the first thing I think about. Which probably says more about me than anything else.

No, PABT stands for Port Authority Bus Terminal, the huge terminal in Manhattan at East 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, right near Times Square. The view above may be the first street scene you travelers by bus see after you disembark. Prior to that you'd see some street scenes between the Lincoln Tunnel and the garage from your bus window, and those would make you wish they would turn the bus right around and take you home. But what you see when you leave the terminal itself is much more exciting, if not much more clean.

The PABT itself is pretty lousy. Oh, sure, this picture makes the PABT look all glamorous and everything, but it's awful. Built in stages over the 20th century, the building includes bad examples of about every style that came along, as detailed in this article on the site Failed Architecture. The biggest sin may have been to make crap brown the predominant color. Mass Transit and Earth Tones are not really pals.

Many people hate the current Penn Station, which is buried underground at Madison Square Garden. They call it a dump. They say it's an oversize subway station. They say (as did architecture historian Vincent Scully), "One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat."

I say: It beats the Port Authority.

I've complained about the PABT before. I've called it strange. I've noted that "graceful as a bus station" would be a bad simile. I will confess that it is much less scary than it was in the 1970s, as the FA article notes.

I do have one unusual PABT story from a couple of years ago. I had attended a function in town after work, but left early to get a bus home to my Hudson Valley town. When I got to the terminal I found out that the Shortline Bus I had intended to take did not actually stop in my town, despite what the schedule online said. I had to wait for almost an hour for another bus.

There was a young couple hanging around that night who had clearly been overserved, wherever they had been. The pretty young blond lady was particularly hammered, in my opinion, and I have good reason for that judgment. While I was going down an escalator to go buy a snack, the couple got on behind me and began walking down the steps. The woman stumbled and suddenly came crashing down next to me, her long hair pouring out in front of her onto the steps, the escalator's teeth at the bottom racing up quick. Her bewildered look showed a complete lack of comprehension as to what had just happened. The man she was with was still several steps behind.

If I had not been there to grab her hand and haul her up fast, I am certain her hair would have been snarled up in the mechanism. I don't think it would have killed her, but she would have been injured.

It was pretty lucky that I was there, that I thought fast. Fast thinking is not something I'm known for. Sometimes I think the whole reason fate or God got me stuck there that night was to save that woman from her injury. Whoever she was, I hope that the evening's adventure put her on a path to a better place.

Better than the Port Authority, anyway.

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