When the L train in Williamsburg stopped running mid-morning and the northern end of the neighborhood temporarily grinded to a halt, two things came to mind. First, Williamsburg residents are almost completely reliant on one subway line. Second, there really is a Williamsburg “type.”
At around 9:50–rush hour in the neighborhood populated by young professionals, artsy types, and those who appear to be perennially unemployed–an anonymous voice announced to passengers impatiently waiting inside a First Avenue-bound subway car parked at the Bedford Avenue stop that service to Manhattan would be suspended. Hapless, confused-looking 20- and 30-somethings spilled out onto Williamsburg’s main strip on their cell phones, trying to arrange transportation, myself included.
Contrary to reports from one stranded straphanger who told me someone had jumped onto the tracks, no one had died–there was electricity cut from First to Eighth avenues.
Some made their way to the J train in South Williamsburg. Others tried their luck at Northside Car Service. The dispatcher at Northside’s tiny Bedford Avenue headquarters told me the wait for a car would be five minutes, so I initially assumed the crowd of 30-odd people, dressed in jeans and decidedly unprofessional attire, were waiting for the bus.
Then the first person in line shouted, “Anyone going to Union Square?”
“I’m going to the East Village,” another woman replied. They had quickly assembled a four-person car pool.
Being stranded in the middle of a workday is one of those frustrating urban experiences that gives New Yorkers a chance to bond over a common greivance: In this case the intersection of crappysubway service and the demands of a neo-industrial work week–after all, their workday started at 10 a.m.
Luckily, I heard a nice Canadian girl tell another woman she was going to 18th and Fifth and they let me hop in. The Canadian was an an art director for an advertising agency and graciously took along two passengers even though she was expensing the ride to her company. The other passenger was a dancer with the Martha Graham troupe.
During the congested, one-hour trip the three of us chatted about how strange it was for a dancer, an adverstising designer, and a reporter to end up in the same car, and eventually exchanged business cards and parted ways.
Service reportedly resumed when we were en-route.