Sunday, January 30, 2005


A week (?) ago a homeless man set a shopping cart ablaze in the subway station in order to keep warm through the night. The burning cart subsequently destroyed the control room and now the C train no longer runs. Things won’t be back to normal for months—maybe even years. This is because the controls were already so old and obsolete and the entire junky system was likely on the verge of collapse to begin with. So what do the nice news people do? They interview grumpy, piggy-faced little commuters, who, between bites of their disintegrating muffins and their brothy coffee say things like “I’m going to lose sleep over this,” and “this is definitely going to add 20-30 minutes to my commute each way each day.” Now certainly these inconveniences are real, and certainly nobody should automatically jump to justify someone setting large, uncontrollable fires in urban areas, but perhaps the real issue isn’t the surly nine to fivers with slouchy socks and impotent little earbuds hanging from their ears blaring their Bruce Springsteen, perhaps it would be pertinent to examine the conditions that forced an elderly man to set a cart on fire in the subway station because he had nowhere warm to sleep that night. Imagine a reporter asking two commuters and the person who set the fire how the incident would affect them in the future:

Commuter 1: Now I’m not even going to have time for breakfast.

Commuter 2: I have to stand around on a stinky, urine soaked platform even when I don’t want to.

Homeless man: If I’d stayed above ground and hadn’t lit the fire, I’d have frozen to death.

Which of those responses sound the most newsworthy to you?

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