Posts Tagged ‘trains’
October 16, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
For the past week and a half, New York City straphangers have been hearing an unusual announcement during their commutes. “Police are seeking a missing child, Avonte Oquendo, fourteen. He suffers from autism and cannot communicate verbally.” The message describes his striped shirt, jeans, and sneakers; riders are instructed to contact the NYPD. The same message runs on the electronic sign boards on the platforms, between wait times for different lines. The MTA is running the alerts because like many people on the autism spectrum, Avonte likes trains, and the hope is that he will gravitate toward subway stations.
Anyone who has lived in a city recognizes the mask of defensive impassivity commuters typically wear. But change comes over passengers’ faces when they hear this public service announcement. In those moments every single person has the same hope: that he be found, that he be unharmed. By now, we all know his face, which is plastered all over the subway system.
Oquendo walked out of his school in Long Island City, Queens, on October 4 and has not been seen since. Hundreds of volunteers have been searching around the clock; the reward is now more than $70,000. Psychics are working with the cops; divers have started dragging the East River. Meanwhile, the MTA has taken the unprecedented step of suspending overnight track work and deploying employees to scour all 468 stations for the missing boy. “No one knows the subway system like track workers,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 president John Samuelsen.
It has long been understood that those with autism and Asperger’s are often drawn to transit systems; the order of the schedules, the complexity of the timetables and maps, can be both soothing and engaging. Darius McCollum, the Staten Island man whose fixation with the New York City transit system (and, more to the point, his penchant for impersonating transit workers and occasionally commandeering trains and buses) has gotten him arrested more than twenty times, is sort of a legend, but his is only an extreme example. In recent years, educators have capitalized on this established correlation: the London Transport Museum has hosted teenagers in its timetabling department, while the New York Transit Museum runs a “Subway Sleuths” after-school program for seven- to eleven-year-olds that is designed to “use children’s interest in transit to help them navigate social experiences with peers.” Studies in the UK and Australia have found that children on the autism spectrum identified strongly with Thomas the Tank Engine; the parent company, Thomas and Friends, has joined up with several initiatives designed to help put this influence to good use.
Of course, to a child alone, the subway system can be anything but a friendly place. One need not enumerate the dangers. To most passengers, the subway is an experience to be borne at the best of times: efficient, affordable, and round-the-clock, yes, but hardly pleasant. It is strange to hear these announcements, and look around at each other, and know we are all realizing that there is a child who finds the same experience we are tolerating magical and reassuring, and that it is also endangering him, and that, at the same time, the whole, big, impersonal thing is being mobilized to try and find him. As the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the trains enthusiast who created Thomas the Tank Engine, once said, “a steam engine has always got character. It’s the most human of all man-made machines.”
Chief of Department Phil Banks said that if anyone thinks they see Avonte, they should call the department’s hotline at 800-577-TIPS.
January 28, 2013 | by Aaron Gilbreath
The entrance to Los Angeles’s original subway system lies hidden on a brushy slope next to an apartment building that resembles a Holiday Inn. Known as the “Hollywood Subway,” the line opened in 1925; ran 4,325 feet underground, between downtown and the Westlake District; and closed in 1955. After Pacific Electric Railway decommissioned the tracks, homeless people started sleeping in the old Belmont Tunnel. Crews filmed movies such as While the City Sleeps and MacArthur in it. City officials briefly used it to store impounded vehicles, as well as first aid and 329,700 pounds of crackers during part of the Cold War. By the time the entrance was sealed around 2006, graffiti artists had been using it as a canvas for decades, endowing it with legendary status in street mural culture, and earning it numerous appearances in skateboard and other magazine shoots. Now the tunnel sits at the end of a dead-end street, incorporated into the apartment’s small garden area, resembling nothing more than another spigot in Los Angeles’s vast flood control system. Read More »
November 10, 2010 | by Tim Wu
11:00 A.M., Oakland University, Michigan
“We don’t actually have wires sticking out of our heads,” I say, “but if you have an iPhone in your pocket and a laptop on your bag you’re pretty close. You’ve already delegated your memory to Google and Wikipedia; Facebook is there to remind you who your friends are.”
I have a bad habit. Whatever I happen to be reading influences me to a degree that is often, in retrospect, embarrassing or ridiculous. You might say I’m a slave to what I’m reading. And that may explain why I’m here with a group of undergraduates discussing whether or not we are, in fact, already cyborgs.
While these are my ideas (sort of), they are more honestly a take on Kevin Kelly’s new book What Technology Wants. I’m obsessed. He has got me talking about weird tech-philosophy stuff, such as whether we are cyborgs (see above) or whether it’s a good idea to quit technology altogether and go live in the wild.
I’m talking to undergraduates because my first book, coauthored with Jack Goldsmith, was selected to be read, campus-wide, by Oakland University in Michigan. For their part, the undergraduates seem to accept the idea that we are already more machine than man without much resistance, proving again that it is hard to shock the young. Perhaps to them, Darth Vadar had roughly the right idea.
7:00 P.M., Ann Arbor, Michigan
I hit up Twitter, where I find that I have said something insane about someone named Dorothy:
superwuster DOROTHY you don’t know shit about SHIT so fuck you.
Someone must have hacked my Twitter account. It is a bit of a surprise to see things written in my name that don’t fully reflect what I think. On the other hand, that was also the experience of rereading my first book.
A little later I notice that in addition to a hacker, I have a Twitter hater, apparently one of the students forced to read my book for school. He writes:
julianmgsantos Fuck you tim wu #crazyrhyming
julianmgsantos #whatreallycheesesme tim wu and dumb bitches
To his credit: At least Mr. Julianmgsantos appears to be enjoying Twitter. Most everyone else views it as a duty, like washing the digital dishes. Nonetheless, my appearance at a student Q & A yesterday prompted a reappraisal:
julianmgsantos Not gonna lie i hated tim wu. Until he showed up to this Q&A fried as hell. Im actually gonna read his book now
Kelly gets credit for that change in heart.