The Subway Worker
Story circa July 5th, 2006 | Back to Blog Listing

A yellow New York Transit work train
When I was visiting Eric and Amy in New York City (as I tended to do each summer), I often spend some time filming subways. I don't know what my fascination is with subways, but I find them very enjoyable to photograph and film.

On this one very late Wednesday night (technically Thursday morning) I was waiting at the 42nd street subway station to catch the uptown 'A' train. On the tracks behind me was one of the work trains. Having never seen one of these before, I snapped a few photos of it. After getting a few pictures of it, I started shooting some film of it as well. I wasn't even looking into the screen to see what I was filming at the time and so had no idea what I had accidentally picked up.

Laying down in the driver's seat of the train was a transit worker. When another worker walked past him on the outer part of the train, he glanced back to see who had walked by and evidently caught a glimpse of my camera. What happened next was frustrating.

He walked off of the train and approached me with quite the mouth on him. He was yelling at me how it was illegal to film subways, that I was going to go to jail, and that I needed to give him my camera. I told him this was not true and I would not give him my camera. The truth of the matter was that I didn't know if New York had passed some insane measure barring trains from being filmed and so after about 30 seconds of arguing, I showed him one of the pictures in the camera and told him that was all I had. He seemed to be okay with this and walked away, all the while reminding me not to take more photos.

It wasn't until I walked away and actually looked at the film that I had any idea what he was concerned about. As it turns out, he had been sleeping on the job. When he caught the glimpse of my camera, he assumed that I had been filming him asleep on the job, jumped to feet, and then proceeded towards me (albeit he never left the edge of the train).

Here is the actual film:

I filed a report with the New York Transit Authority as soon as I got back to Eric and Amy's apartment. Here was my email to them:

Customer (Kevin Ludlow) - 07/06/2006 02:17 AM
To whom it may concern,

My name is Kevin Ludlow and I am currently on vacation visiting some local residents and otherwise enjoying this lovely city.

At about 12:40am on July 6th (just about 1.5 hours ago), a yellow work train (engine #67) pulled up into the 42nd Street / Port Authority stop on the Uptown 'A' track.

As I had not seen one of these large yellow work trains, I took a picture of it with my camera and actually wound up filming a bit. Though I had not thought of it, the 'working' MTA passenger in the train was asleep, his feet up upon the window. The conductor exited the train walking right past me as I continued to film. The MTA passenger eventually woke up, looked towards me, did a double take, and finally jumped up from his lying down position - apparently startled by me.

Normally I would not mention such a thing, but what happened next appalled me. He signaled for me to come near him and asked me what I was taking a picture of. I explained the train. He said (rather unpleasantly) that it was illegal to take pictures and that he needed to see what I had taken a picture of. I told him I did not know that and that I would not show him my camera and then proceeded to ask a person next to me if this was true [that I couldn't take pictures]. The nearby person didn't know and the MTA worker proceeded to tell me he would go and get the police and let them deal with me. Not wanting to cause a scene, I showed him a picture of train - naturally not the video of him asleep which I am almost certain is why he was so angry with me.

Truth be told I actually thought he was going to exit the train and attempt to 'stop' me. Is this a common thing a city tourist should expect from the MTA staff and if so, why?

I have provided the video I described above for you in both AVI and MOV formats. Please feel free to view them from my website for reference to my story.

Thank you very much,
Kevin Ludlow

The next after noon I received the following email from the New York Transit Authority people:

Response (Melissa Glasgow) - 07/06/2006 01:49 PM
This is in response to your recent e-mail to MTA New York City Transit reporting an employee at the 42nd Street-Port Authority station.

We sincerely regret the incident you describe as having occurred at the 42nd Street-Port Authority station. Please be assured that the type of behavior you described is not indicative of the high standards of professionalism set forth in our guidelines. In response to your complaint, we have referred your e-mail to supervision in the appropriate operating department for review and investigation. Based on the information you provided, we hope to identify the employee you encountered for questioning and appropriate further action. Supervision will also closely monitor our employees at this location and take the appropriate measures to prevent any recurrence of this incident.

If you have any further transit-related questions, concerns or problems, please contact Customer Services at (718) 330-3322, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or write to Customer Services at 2 Broadway, Room A11.146, New York, NY 10004. In order to investigate the situation properly and take the appropriate further action, we may need to contact you by phone or mail. Please provide your phone number and address to us for forwarding to the Department of Subways.