One day in February, I took a ride on the subway. This was a rare occurrence. Since turning forty, I’d started to suffer from a heightened sense of claustrophobia. A few years ago, I was stuck for an hour in an elevator with a man who weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds and his two grocery carts crammed with bags of Tostitos and bottles of Canada Dry, an experience both frightening and lonely. The elevator had simply given up. What if a subway train also refused to move? I began walking seventy blocks at a time or splurging on taxis. But on this day I had taken the N train. Somewhere between Forty-ninth Street and Forty-second Street, a signal failed and we ground to a halt. For forty minutes, we stood still. An old man yelled at the conductor at full volume in English and Spanish. Time and space began to collapse around me. The orange seats began to march toward each other. I was no longer breathing with any regularity. This is not going to end well. None of this will end well. We will never leave here. We will always be underground. This, right here, is the rest of my life. I walked over to the conductor’s silver cabin. He was calmly explaining to the incensed passenger the scope of his duties as an M.T.A. employee. “Sir,” I said to him, “I feel like I’m dying.” More at The New Yorker.
There is a lot more to this story than watches.