By Daniel Roberts

An empty Coney Island D-train. Photo courtesy of Tom Giebel/Atomische.com
An empty Coney Island D-train. Photo courtesy of Tom Giebel/Atomische.com

Sunday afternoon. The subway ride to South Brooklyn is a quiet one. People sleep or try to read.

But on this Sunday, the D-line is undergoing renovation. At the Prospect Avenue stop, the conductor makes a garbled announcement about this becoming an R-train. Passengers snap up from their stupor and look surprised, annoyed. This was poorly advertised; there weren’t many signs up at previous stations.

The train will be splitting off at 36th Street and continuing on the R-line down to Bay Ridge. Coney Island passengers have to stay on until 59th Street, where they can transfer to the N, which runs out to Bensonhurst and finally Coney Island—different parts of town, however, than where the D-train would normally bring them.

At 36th Street, the conductor repeats the service announcement. A chunky Asian teenager removes his iPod ear buds and turns to the woman sitting closest to him. “This became an R train?” He asks it a bit loudly; people turn to look.

“Yes, they make it an R now, you have switch at 59th to go N,” she replies. She speaks with an unmistakable Russian accent. She wears a thin, gray cardigan and pinned onto her right chest is a badge that reads:


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“These trains always switch up without warning,” the teen continues.

She agrees: “Always. It’s been that forever.” Both are in a state of complaint, but neither one seems particularly angry. “When you live all the way out,” she continues, “you know, it’s tough.”

He puts his ear buds back in and turns away, but a few minutes later when she sneezes he says, to her surprise, “Bless you.”

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