These Guys Lost The Cold War

"These guys gotta get their act together," announced the middle-aged gentleman on a crowded NYC subway. He was referring to an announcement about a re-route due to construction, and his fellow passengers jostled each other in silent agreement. That is until a 6 foot and a half giant with a strong Russian accent spoke up.

"Sir, if I may, I think what they are trying to do is very admirable."

The middle-aged man looked up, surprised. The Russian continued.

"This city is one of the only, if not the only, major city with a 24 hour subway system. Other cities can renovate during the night, but this city has to renovate while people are using the system, it's like redesigning your dining room while somebody's trying to have dinner."

I, a few feet away and pressed up against a subway door, smiled at this analogy. The Russian was not finished.

"Also, this system is so old, many of the schematics have long disappeared, so they have to make guesses on how to make improvements."

"What guesses?" asked the middle-aged man, "they know where the subway is."

"No, it is not that simple," laughed the Russian, "there are many mysteries they have to solve. For example, Con Edison does not know where much of their power goes. They charge people wherever they can and they make a lot of money, but much of the power they produce is lost somewhere in the subway, and the MTA engineers have to make educated guesses on how to find that power."

Now the whole train was silent, all listening to the mystical Russian explain New York to us.

"Do you work for the city or something?" asked the middle-aged man.

"No," answered the Russian, "I am an engineer and I came here to work for a private firm. But, I like to pay attention to what is going on around me."

The conversation ended there, and I stood astounded, realizing how honestly lucky I was to be pressed up against a train door in New York City.