Displaying articles for: February 2014

Trash Talk

"Two years ago, officials battling litter and rats in New York City subway stations started a little experiment: Take away trash bins.... MTA officials plan to extend the program to 29 more subway stations along the J and M lines later this year."
-- The Wall Street Journal

Dear Subway Riders,

Welcome to the subway, working hard to serve customers like you. Remember the trash cans?  You may notice we've removed them from stations throughout the system.  A recent study found that every trash can creates four trash cans' worth of garbage each and every day.  By removing the cans, we're proving our commitment not only to reducing trash in our subway stations but reducing by 100% the cost of paying people to collect it and throw it in the river or onto a trash boat that will sail endlessly around the world.

In order to make sure this program is effective, we have taken further steps.  Did you know that each time the subway stops, the odds of additional trash increase, as people without trash exit the subway system and new people, with trash, come in?  You may wonder, if there are no trash cans, what's the worry?  But every system should have a failsafe.  That's why we're also reducing the number of stops the trains will be making, with an ultimate goal of making zero stops by 2021.  Zero stops and zero trash cans means a zero times zero chance of subway trash.  And zero times zero is less than nothing.

Removing the trash cans and eliminating subway stops are just the first two steps in our comprehensive subway beautificationment project.  Have you noticed the benches in our stations?  Too many people have.  Our study found that the odds of people sitting down were dramatically increased with every bench, seat, or horizontal ledge available.  Sitting down increases lingering, and lingering, of course, leads to trash.  That's why we've removed most of our benches, leaving only the ones that were installed in honor of the fine citizens who donated money to improve our subway stations. Nobody has ever done that, so you do the math.  Our goal is to remove all horizontal surfaces of any kind by 2032.

Some critics have argued that removing benches will not prevent people from sitting, and may instead lead them to sit on the station floor.  This would be ridiculous, of course, and that's why we're committed to removing all subway station floors by 2046.  We are currently studying the costs and consequences of this plan and will soon be launching a pilot program in one randomly chosen station. You'll know which one when you get there and there is no floor.

Until there are no floors left on which to throw your garbage, you may wonder what will be replacing the trash cans.  In some stations, the answer is nothing.  We request that you hold onto your trash, eat it, or see if one of your fellow passengers might want to eat it. Alternatively you should throw it on the tracks, where it might catch fire.  Fire reduces the number of people using the subway, which lowers overall costs.  In addition, the more fires, the less costly our possible future heating bills.  Controlling the possible future costs of heating our stations even though they are entirely unheated now, and will soon have no floors and not even exist at all, is an important long-term goal.

In a few stations, due to an unexpected error when initially installing our trash cans, their removal has left gaping holes that lead to the center of the Earth.  Please be careful when navigating the platforms in these stations (while they exist) because if you fall into a hole or, for that matter, onto the tracks (until they are eliminated too, by 2053), we no longer have any staff assigned to help rescue you, thanks to our recent cost-cutting measure of throwing our maintenance personnel in the trash cans that no longer exist.

Do note that at the end of your journey to the Earth's molten core, there is a trash can, a bench, and one working unisex restroom, which is one more restroom of any kind than we have here in the subway system.  Feel free to use it, unless a rat got there first.

Also note that in some stations where the trash cans have been removed, you will see a large dumpster where we will be temporarily storing the cans, the benches, the floors, our maintenance personnel, and our trains. If you could get to them, which you won't be able to, it would be illegal to use these dumpsters for your personal trash.

Finally, this will be my last letter as director of communications for the subway system.  I am being removed, as a cost-cutting measure, and will not be replaced. Thank you.

Please recycle this notice.  But not here.

Jeremy Blachman's humor pieces can be found at jeremyblachman.com.  He may no longer be allowed to ride the subway.


My Cruciverbal Life

Grab a stool. Yep, I finished it that fast. How? Well, you'd be good at crosswords too, if you’d lived my life.
For instance: How do I know that a small newt is called an EFT? Believe it or not, when I was very young, I used to play with an eft at my great-grandmother’s house! She was a bit of an eccentric, but harmless. My great-grandmother, I mean. She had money, and she lived on a beautiful, sizeable estate outside Helena, Montana. She loved newts, because they’re less awkward than salamanders. (Also, for that matter, AUKs.) Her home was filled with newts, which had the run of the place. Well, the crawl. When I was four, a particularly bold eft leapt into my lap. I called her Sally. We were inseparable until she was full-grown. I liked to think of her as physically gracefulDEFT. When we finally parted company, I was grief-strickenBEREFT.
The dog of the Thin Man moviesASTA, of course. Did I mention that my great-grandmother, Myrna (whom I called “Nana”), occasionally thought she was the actress Myrna Loy? (She claimed she was best friends with OONAa Chaplin.) She used to regale us with stories of the Hollywood life, and specifically the adventure that was making movies with Bill Powell… and a certain wire-haired terrier named Skippy. What a scamp! Skippy, I mean, who'd played ASTA, not Bill Powell, who'd played Nick Charles, the partner to NORA.
Nana Myrna’s property was actually in Radersburg, which is how I know that Radersburg to Helena dir. is NNW. That was something you just didn’t want to have to pull over to look up, and you sure as heck didn’t want to have to ask someone. Rural Montana isn’t an especially friendly place. It wasn’t when I would visit, anyway. It was downright EERIE. (On the other hand, Nana also had a vacation home in the very welcoming New York county of ERIE.)
One unfortunate summer, my family indeed took a wrong turn in our station wagon and ended up in Sac and Fox, Iowa. Before we knew what was happening, we seemed to be captives of the OTOE. We were ultimately able to leave the tribal territory after realizing that we in fact were never being held against our will. My older sister, Lori, (then pregnant with the child of an Otoe named OTTO, after both the conductor Klemperer and the filmmaker Preminger), stayed with the tribe when the rest of us left. I’d missed a lot of school, but I did eventually get some community college credit for having become semi-fluent in Chiwere.
In college, I was on the fencing team. My weapon of choice? The dueling sword, designed for thrusting, with the end blunted for competition. Yes, the EPEE. (My guess is that it was never used by AJAX, a Greek hero of the Trojan War, and the son of Telamon, king of Salamis. My high school’s athletes were the Trojans; our mascot was a salami.) I got three large jugs with wide mouths for graduation, and I used these EWERS to wash—in fact, LAVE—myself more or less regularly. Before getting a job, I took a week-long trip to Ireland, which Nana obsessively, exclusively referred to as ERIN or EIRE, and where I heard the ancient Celtic language ERSE spoken in a brewpub (the IBEX & IBIS) with its own kiln used to dry hops. On a cold day, you could get plenty warm just sitting near that OAST.
My first job after college was as a neophyte (TYRObricklayer. Oddly enough, I had to bring my own V-shaped open trough on a pole, used to carry building materials. That HOD came in handy when I was hired to build an architectural extensionELL—onto a secret structure in NEV, a state so. of Tex. It was on that job that I first heard the ridiculous talk—all that BLATHER—about UFOs—and the little green men who pilot them, ETs. As I recall, it was also on that job that I tripped and broke the arm bone that the doctor kept calling my ULNA.
During my recovery, I finished reading a terrific autobiographical book by Herman Melville. It takes place on a whaling vessel in the South Seas. There’s a mutiny. Most of the crew is imprisoned on Tahiti. You know the book I mean, right? It came after TYPEE, but the title completely slips my mind. Something with an O? Damn it. Nana Myrna would know. She always claimed that she had auditioned for the film version, directed by ELIA Kazan, but the part went to UTA Hagen.
So that's how. Bartender? I'll have another abbr. for the King of Beers. Know what? Make it two. One for me and one for my new BUD.

“We’d vomit bad matzoh, Rick.”  can be rearranged to spell matthewdavidbrozik.com.


July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).