NEW YORK — It was just another Thursday morning in the Bronx — except that Hillary Clinton was on her way.
Secret Service agents looked around cautiously, New York City police officers paced the relatively quiet streets at the tail-end of rush hour, reporters glanced up nervously at the 4 train platform above them.
Clinton would be riding the subway today.
None of Clinton's aides could seem to remember the last time she had ridden the New York subway but they assured reporters that she was ready with a MetroCard, not a subway token ** ahem, Bernie Sanders **.
It had only taken the Vermont senator a New York minute to get into trouble with the tabloid press. In a recent interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, the Brooklyn-born Sanders acknowledged that he hadn't been on the subway in quite some time and dropped a reference to tokens that took New Yorkers back to those halcyon days.
Clinton's aides said the subway joy ride was planned before Sanders's gaffe, but she didn't pass up an opportunity to jab at him.
"I think it was my first term when we changed from tokens to MetroCards," Clinton said with a burst of uncontrollable laughter, as she talked to reporters in a gaggle before boarding the train at the 161st Street-Yankee Stadium stop.
Then, the chaos began. The crush of local, state and national reporters, camera and sound crews, and campaign staff moved like a hurricane toward the stairs that led to the platform.
"This way!" staffers yelled, as they led the pack across the street to the subway entrance.
"Go! Go! Go!"
Moments later, Clinton followed. MetroCard in hand she swiped, then, in a familiar frustration for New Yorkers, swiped again. She pushed through the metal turnstile as cameras flashed, and photographers cursed at each other trying to get a good shot.
It had been — according to Clinton — about two years since she last rode the subway after her time as secretary of state.
Where did she go? "Just around here to get from one place to another in the midst of the craziness," Clinton answered.
Today, there would be more craziness to be had.
"Be careful, you're walking backward!" Clinton called out to the media scrambling around her.
She was accompanied by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Diaz's hype man of sorts, who blasted out announcements from a bullhorn in English and Spanish announcing Clinton's presence.
"Good morning! Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! Here we are, live from the Bronx!" the man announced to bewildered subway riders. "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and his choice — the Bronx's choice — for president of the United States ... making history ... the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton!"
As the train pulled into the station, unsuspecting subwaygoers scrambled to get off the train before the media got on.
"Subway etiquette!" Clinton's staffers called out to the journalists, urging them to let people off the train before trying to board.
For the most part, Diaz kept Clinton rapt in conversation throughout the brief subway ride — two stops to be exact. Onlookers squeezed in between the television cameras, reporters and Secret Service agents to snap photos but few were able to get near or a word in as the Secret Service kept most at arm's length.
"I wonder what stop she's getting off on," one woman mused a few feet away from Clinton.
As the train began to move, one man was overheard on the phone telling someone that he would be late: "Hillary Clinton is on the train."
A few blocks uptown at 170th Street, Clinton and Diaz descended the stairs from the subway platform together and quickly encountered a man and his daughter in a stroller on the street corner.
"Hello, sweetheart, what's your name?" Clinton said, leaning toward the baby girl, who smiled back but never let go of her bottle of milk.
"Say hi, mami," her father told her.
"How old is she?" Clinton asked.
"Nine months," he replied.
"She's got to hang on to that bottle, I don't blame her," Clinton said.
In Spanish, Diaz urged the man to vote for Clinton: Vote for her [the baby's] future, Diaz told him.
"My mother, my grandmother, they all love you!" the man told Clinton.
Clinton responded: "Good, I need your help!"
Clinton wandered for about a block before entering Munch Time deli, where she taped an interview with NBC News.
As she exited the deli, supporters yelled out: "Hillary! The Bronx loves you!"
"Hillary! Dominicans love you!"