Friday, January 6, 2012

The Commuters of 1982

Three ghosts of old New Yorkers haunt the Port Authority bus terminal. You can find these walking anachronisms lurking in the back by the Red & Tan ticket windows and the desultory Book Corner where Kindle-less travelers pick up the latest Danielle Steels and John Grishams.


The Commuters, by George Segal

These ghosts, with their shabby slacks and jackets, with their heavy bags and heavy bodies, look nothing like today's New Yorkers. They hail from an earlier time, a time without cell phones or iPods. A time when people walked and watched where they were going simultaneously.



Their shoes are miserable. Their shoulder bags are miserable. All in all, they look rather depressed.



Unable to write texts or talk on the phone to their friends, they bear the heavy burden of actual thought. It is 1982 in this frozen scene. There is much to think about.

Ronald Reagan's recession is in full bloom. A frightening disease called AIDS has just been named. And the New York Times reports that "by the end of this century electronic information technology will have transformed American home, business, manufacturing, school, family and political life... a vision, at once appealing and threatening, of a style of life defined and controlled by videotex terminals throughout the house."



Pondering a life completely controlled by videotex terminals, the ghosts wonder "What will become of us?" as they step heavily through the bus station portal into a future nothingness.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Man... I hadn't seen these since the old days, when I used to come in from Baltimore or Providence of Boston on Greyhound to visit NYC for a day in the early and mid-90's -- when you'd step out of Port Authority and instead of the NY Times building, there was a row of low-rise porn shops. When walking down 42nd between 8th and 9th, you were liable to get pushed into a doorway and threatened. And yet I miss it all, all and all of it, all.

birdie said...

Thank you for this peek back into the distant past. Some of us were actually around and remember the New York of those (kindle-less & Koch-ful)days. Not better, not worse, just a bit less cynical,a bit more optimistic. And less plugged in (but hey, we had our walkmans).

Anonymous said...

I thought that in 1982 it was Jimmy Carter's recession, that Ronald Reagan was trying to get us out of.

Let's leave the political bias out of your blurbs.

thwany said...

thanks for this.

JAZ said...

When they freeze the 2011 man in time, he will have a wool cap on in June, will be wearing Buddy Holly rimmed glasses, an ironic beard, skinny leg jeans, and will be toting a massive backpack filled with art supplies, a MacBook, a $70 plaid lumberjack shirt strategicaly ripped, an obscure volume of French Literature, and a baggy of Rice Krispies treats Fedexed with love from mom's kitchen in Wisconsin.

Oh, and yeah, obviously he will be staring into his I-Phone.

Grand St. said...

Be careful, Jeremiah!
Looks like Ed Meese is following your blog.

Jeremiah Moss said...

nicely done JAZ!

re: Mr. Meese--he and his Commission took time out from watching porn to make that comment.

Brendan said...

Yes, it is really sad how every one of the eight and a half million people in New York City is now an iPhone-wielding yuppie or hipster.

@JAZ

Reading obscure books is bad now?

JAZ said...

@ Brendan

Only the 1st chapter is read - he only needs enough so he can impress that quirky Bushwick performance artist over a plate of artisanal hummus.

Brendan said...

@JAZ

Ha, fair enough, and unfortunately accurate.

Seriously though, in case my earlier sarcasm was not clear, everyone needs remember that these people are still a minority. You're all going to give yourselves high blood pressure if you keep worrying about them like this! The average commuters of 1982 and 2011 are not so different.

Little Earthquake said...

Only in the mind can the past and present exist simultaneously. See in these statues whatever you wish. Maybe they're trying to get home in time for Diff'rent Strokes. That era is long gone. Don't look back.

Ken Mac said...

I wonder the original theme behind these frozen folks, who compared to the today's average NYer, look like homeless ragamuffins. The loneliness of the B&T traveler? Bring us your downtrodden masses from New Brunswick?

Anonymous said...

According to today's Times online, Christine Quinn has gotten her monies in place to become the city's next mayor. How will Manhattan's DNA fare under her? The new developments should be interesting. Port Authority could be razed for a large mall.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Great post, Jeremiah.
You're right, Brendan - the woolly-hatted hipster is a rare & exotic species in many parts of the city.

Michael Simmons said...

"Let's leave the political bias out of your blurbs."

Dear Anon. - You're a guest on someone else's blog and you tell them what they ought NOT to write???

You're certainly entitled to disagree and to express your disagreement -- at Jeremiah's discretion -- but you ain't in charge here.

Thank you Jeremiah for this refuge of sanity and soulfulness.

Crazy Eddie said...

Pre 9/11, I always got a Pompeii vibe out of those commuters.

Anonymous said...

In the "old" days, this area was a waiting room, with seats!

MagWildwood said...

This makes me pine for a George Segal exhibition! I remember how fascinated I was when first encoutering his "people" at the Whitney Museum. Some of them looked like actual patrons....

As for the plugged in generation, it's true that started really with the Walkmans that came about around this time. People in offices (mine, anyway) started plugging in while working and you'd feel as if you were interrupting if you said something to them. That mentality took root and now it's pervasive for cashiers to text while you wait for them to stop and ring you up.

P.S. Michael Simmons took the words right out of my mouth! Nothing more annoying that people telling a person what he can post on his own personal blog.

Anonymous said...

@JAZ - but he got that flannel shirt on sale! Normally it's $185! (And that was one of the cheap ones.)

Anonymous said...

In '82 in the port those folks would have been standing on one of the ubiquitous pay phone lines waiting to pay a hustler to make a long distance call on a stolen CC#.....

Good times....

diehipster said...

LOL JAZ - Sup!

The only thing is that the hipster specimen you describe won't be found in Port Authority or the 42nd St area - unless of course he is hopping on a bus to suburbia where he originated from to visit the parents to refuel his credit cards and tell them how well his creative life is going. Otherwise we all know his statue will be placed along Bedford Avenue or some zany industrial Bushwick street - smoking a recently rolled American Spirit cigarette and holding a hand-crafted cup of $18 coffee.

Conan1982 said...

Are these statues still there? I'd like to visit them if they are. In fact, if there is a way back to 1982 I'd rather be there as well ...

TimeTraveler said...

@conan1982 in 1982 you could hear the same complaints, maybe on different topics, but they sounded the same. Live in the present. The past was not any better. The world changes and we must adapt. And we can only slow down change with massive effort, but we can't stop it.