But here came that M104 bus, inching south on Broadway through traffic, crossing 96th Street, and the people at the bus stop moved forward as it approached, until they saw that every available inch of window was occupied by faces, shoulders, hands and arms.
And there went that bus.
“Ain’t even gonna stop,” Spatz said. He shook his head and walked back to his apartment.
If the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center and the Brooklyn Bridge are part of what defines New York’s majesty, the city’s 108-year-old subway system is part of what makes it function, more than 600 miles of tracks connecting Brooklyn to the Bronx and everything in between.
Anyone who wants to get anywhere — whether it’s Coney Island or Wall Street, Yankee Stadium or the Brooklyn House of Detention, grandma’s house or yoga class — rides the subway. Just last year, the system delivered 1.6 billion rides, an average of 5.3 million a day during the week, 3 million on Saturdays and 2.4 million on Sundays.
Hurricane Sandy halted all that, flooding the tubes between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Water rose to the ceiling at the South Ferry station at the southern end of Manhattan, across from the Statue of Liberty. And water poured into the station at 86th and Lexington. Even the stations that seemed dry, like the one at 96th and Broadway, were closed.
Limited subway service was to resume in a few pockets of the city Thursday, but on Wednesday, millions of New Yorkers had to find another way to get around.
And one of those ways was the M104 bus, which, like buses on dozens of other routes in the city, promised free rides to anyone who could climb aboard.
The crowd waiting at 94th Street and Broadway included John DeMeo, 53, an assets manager who struggled to remember the last time he took a bus, a ride that is considered inferior to walking by many an overly caffeinated New Yorker.
“Too slow,” he said. But today he needed to get to Midtown, about 50 blocks to the south, and another M104 approached.
He let that one go by because he didn’t want to push his way on. Another passed, also overstuffed.
The crowd around him thinned, then thickened with new arrivals, creating yet another ungainly formation.
Perhaps if there were a line, DeMeo thought. Maybe then he’d have a chance.
A line? Here in New York?
A Coach USA charter bus stopped. Through the window, dozens of vacant seats were visible. The door swung open.
DeMeo and the others around him stepped forward.
“Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” the driver shouted, apparently looking for investment bankers. A moment later, the door shut, and the driver took off.