'Shining and Perishable'

Friday, January 30, 2015 / 6:26 PM

“It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in "Wuthering Heights" with one's head in a Food Fair bag.” -Joan Didion

I've always had this feeling that New York was trying to physically eject me from its system. I'm pretty sure every transplant feels that way at one point or another here in this city that never, ever sleeps.

So...my 30-day Unlimited MetroCard won't work. It just won't work at any turnstile. I literally just bought the card Wednesday evening--two days ago. I used it without issues all day Thursday. I stored my card in the exact same pocket of my purse that every card before it has sat. On Friday morning, as I was running to catch the morning 1 train, my card wouldn't work. I tried three times before giving in and using my backup card I keep with a few dollars on it.

The same thing happened as I was rushing off this afternoon to a shoot at NYU. Post-work, I went to the station attendant at Union Square and asked what was wrong and what could be done. She punched a few keys on her computer after inspecting my card and slid it back to me. "You have to call 511," she said.

"But what's wrong with my card?" I asked.

"Call 511." At least she let me through the service door without having to swipe a card.

On the back of every card is a note to call 511 or go online to MTA's eFix website to learn more about how to solve MetroCard problems. I jumped on the website on my phone while waiting for the train and discovered the only option was to fill out a form (more on that below) and snail mail in my card.

I stopped off at 30 Rock to use the printer, but first stopped at the station booth in case the attendant could give me more information or, heaven forbid, a new card.

No such luck.

He gave me the form to mail in along with an envelope that would at least save me postage. To the station attendant's credit, he was very kind and patient while I was near tears after an already-difficult day, but their system is still complete and utter bullshit.

Here's the front and back of the pamphlet he gave me to fill out:

Check out those old-school boxes! Note, by the way, how they want you to keep track of the form: by cutting out the gray box at the bottom.

Another thing to note: the form requires you to postmark your complaint within a day of the incident, which seems like a ridiculous timeline, especially considering that when I asked the station attendant how long it would be before I would hear from MTA, he said, "It could be a few months." 

I had to ask him to repeat himself. A few months?? That's absurd. What was I supposed to do until then? He told me to buy a new card--a new card to replace the one I had literally purchased 48 hours ago. 

I asked if he could replace the card in the station. After all, he had typed in the serial number of my card and saw that I only purchased it two days ago and had only used it one day. His response: "We can't afford to give you two free days." 

And this is where I had a total meltdown. How can MTA not afford to give away two free days? A ride is, what...$2.50? Say I ride the subway or bus twice each day, that's $5/day. So you're telling me, MTA, that $10 is a huge dent? I will give you $10 if it will help. Hell, I'll pay $20. Seeing as how you're raising fees across the board in March, I'm almost positive you actually could afford to give away two free days. 

And it wouldn't even be TWO days. I rode public transportation a grand total of two times on the now-damaged MetroCard I'm sending back! 

But, nope. Instead, I will wake up tomorrow, go to the subway station, purchase a MetroCard, and then go mail my claims form out to Brooklyn and pray it makes it into the hands of a sympathetic soul who will process my claim and send me back a card before I decide to throw up my hands and give in to New York's aggressive push to leave this damn city.

MTA: you've got mail

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