We already knew we can’t go home again. The corner’s a little different, the neighborhood’s changed. The house down the block has been repainted. No two Thanksgivings are the same.
It’s true for New Yorkers returning to the five boroughs. If they’ve been away a minute they might sense something different on the subway. Not that ridership has dropped for the first time in decades or that delays are up. A true New Yorker can be outraged but never surprised.
Still, a traveler boarding the subway might hear a subtle soundtrack shift: earlier this month the MTA changed up its announcements. “Ladies and gentlemen” is on the way out and new introductions are in, just evolution as usual in NYC.
Useful, personalized information...imagine that
The new greetings are part of a larger MTA communication shift to give riders more useful, personalized information, to know more than train traffic is ahead of you. When the change was announced, MTA sources said the agency wanted to be more sensitive to gender identity.
For the returning traveler, it won’t be an entirely brave new world: There will still be the old recorded announcements. The simple train arrival spiel informing riders what beast this is, where it’s heading and instructing them to take care of the closing doors.
But inserted between the usual, the traveler might hear a bright, “Hello passenger, never go onto the tracks for any reason.”
Or, “Hello everyone. Backpacks and other large containers are subject to search by the police.”
Or simply, “Good afternoon.”
The traveler might pull out an earbud and look around. Who was that? This disembodied voice with a new script. It’s an announcer in a control tower along the line, or someone in the Rail Control Center, the hub for the subway system. Or a train conductor or operator on a train itself, trying to remember not to say “ladies and gentlemen.” But to the traveler, it’s just strange.
Straphangers who’ve been here all month will be unperturbed. That happened a few weeks ago. So the visitor will shrug, wait for the train.
Change is the byword of the city
The MTA says that in the next couple of months, the recorded announcements will change, too. The formal “customer communications manual” will be rewritten.
For the returning New Yorker, other things may have changed. A favorite store closed, a new one opened, a little more gentrification, business as usual to the point that it’s change that becomes familiar.
The traditional Thanksgiving surplus of large suitcases in the subway. Performers switching to holiday gift bags rather than hats to hold donations, a sign of the season. A karaoke singer in a neon blue suit crooning “Nessun Dorma.” He’s only been here a month from Korea, the city still new.
Sometimes same-old New York can get on our nerves, as it did for non-subway performer Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live,” who joked about his Staten Island birthplace this week.
He was talking about how much SI grated on him.
“If Staten Island is so desirable, then why is it free to get there,” he said. (Try the ferry this Thanksgiving.)
“Don’t get me wrong, I know Staten Island isn’t all heroin and racist cops,” he piled on. “It also has meth and racist firefighters.”
“I represent what they are,” he opined. “A mentally ill community college dropout who got a ‘Game of Thrones’ tattoo before watching the show.”
Maybe some things can feel the same. But the real truth is that whether you’re heading to the city for the holiday, or will be coming back from an old home in some inconceivable elsewhere Sunday night, the return is unavoidable.
“So I take it you’re not going home for Thanksgiving?” Davidson was asked.
He smiles. “No, I am.”