Keep Your Hands Off My Cans!

I woke up this morning to a monsoon. It wasn’t your typical pussified New York rain that we all know and hate, but a real visceral one. My immediate thought was that I had transported to somewhere else in the middle of the night. My second thought was that I wouldn’t be able to buy cheap cherries from my neighborhood fruit vendor that looks like Dhalsim, of Street Fighter fame. My third and most dreadful thought was that if I were to leave the house today, I wouldn’t want to look down.

I immediately threw on yesterdays clothes, grabbed an umbrella and hightailed it to the hole-in-the wall fruit stand on Kingston and Fulton. After all, if a dude wants fruit, then a dude needs fruit. I navigated my feet around wet napkins, plastic bags, newspapers, diapers and broken umbrellas. The trash cans sat on every corner, filled to the brim with an assortment of the 5. As I decided on some overripe yet underpriced peaches, a C train screeched into the Kingston-Throop station below me. The train blew away some minor debris and most likely shook the steady drip of rusty water coming from the ceiling. The brown water falls consistently onto the tracks, on top of an aggregated pile of trash. I went down to the station and swiped my card, just to get a good look at it. I always enjoy looking at something disgusting before I eat, as it kickstarts the digestive process.

It actually wasn’t that bad today. A few cans, some torn off labels and about 50 disintegrating candy bar wrappers molded into a rusted blob of guh. The thing that makes this rust pile more unique, however, is that it is a mere 5-7 feet away from a trash can. One that everybody knows how to use, but doesn’t want to bother with the effort. Images like this are all too common in the NYC Subways. Straphangers have shown an utmost disregard to properly disposing waste and it gets worse with the younger generations. I once saw a toddler finishing up a candy bar and upon leaving the train, his mother slapped the wrapper out of his hand. A few months back, I spotted a teenager throwing his mp3 player onto the tracks while standing right next to a can. The effort he went through to throw it on the tracks was far greater than turning 45º and plopping it where it belongs. The average New Yorker simply does not care that they’re increasing the risk of train fires and the rusted blob represented all of that. As I walked back out of the station, I made sure to avoid the soaking wet discarded AM New York newspaper. Inside that newspaper was a story about NYCT President Tom Prendergast, and his crackpot scheme to clean up the tunnels:

The MTA is planning to expand a program that tries to reduce underground trash by removing garbage cans from subway platforms, amNewYork has learned.

The agency took away bins in two stations — the Flushing/Main Street No. 7 station and the 8th Street N/R station — in October for what was supposed to be a two-month trial; it’s still ongoing. And New York City Transit President Tom Prendergast said he wants to pull cans from more stations.


“Two doesn’t give you enough for a sample,” Prendergast said. “We’re going to expand it.”

Yeah, I’m sorry, that doesn’t make any sense at all. This utilizes the “subtraction = subtraction” principle. Other ideas using this logic includes:

-If you legalize drugs, you will reduce the amount of drug-related crimes.
-If you reduce the number of trains, less people will have to go places.
-If bars were to get rid of their ashtrays out front, there will be less smokers.
-If gas costs $100/gallon, there would be less pollution.
-And so on and so forth.

Garbage is garbage. It all goes to the place that garbage goes. If Prendergast’s dream scenario were to actually become a reality and people would throw their stuff away above ground, the city would still have trash on its hands. The trash will still exist and will need to be taken to trash heaven. It appears to me that he thinks the absence of trash cans will mean that trash will no longer exist. As an avid trash can user, I feel that there aren’t enough trash cans in the stations. Just last night, I was trying to dispose of a bottle of water, and I had to basically walk the entire length of the platform to find one measly can. After all, I do have that middle class guilt/paranoia. Other people would not have cared that much. They would have casually sat it down in a hidden place [upper class], thrown it on the tracks [lower class] or stuffed it in a backpack [hippie]. Oh wait, did I just get classist? I’m sorry, let’s go back to Prendergast:

Prendergast said he wasn’t sure which, or how many stations would lose garbage pails, but said the pilot “wouldn’t go to scores” of stations.


“It wouldn’t work at a Grand Central or at a Penn Station,” Prendergast said, noting the heavy ridership at those stations, but said the program seems to be working at Main Street, the 10th busiest station last year.

When was the last time Prendergast rode the train? Every station gets heavy ridership! Does it really need to be spelled out?

1) New Yorkers have trash
2) New Yorkers ride the subway
3) If there are no trash cans, New Yorkers will litter because
4) New Yorkers don’t want to carry trash around

It worked at the 10th busiest station, because the 10th busiest station probably has a proper maintenance staff. A station with no receptacles and no litter with no effort means that there are no riders. What do you do? Close the station down! That will save some money! Also, if there’s still going to be trash at “busy” stations, then that would mean that the Garbage Trains would still have to run every night. How is that cutting any costs whatsoever? Is there really going to be an Express Garbage train? Even if the Garbage Train does ride express, it would still stop at stations with low ridership/stations not worthy of having trash cans.

And what about the tourists? Dear god, can we please think of the tourists?!?!? Out of towners probably contribute to at least 30% of the trash in transit. They already have to ask so many questions like “Where is toilet?”, “Which way is Broadway?”, “Do you know of a good place to eat?”, and “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?”. If a tourst has to ask me where the nearest trash can is, I’m probably going to explode in an angergasm.

This whole plan is so ludicrous, I am exhausted just thinking about it. But I do have two solutions to our supposed “trash crisis”:

1) Have a transit worker on every platform at all times. Whenever someone litters, slap them with a $20 fine. No excuses and no profiling. Not only would each platform profit at least $500 per day, but it would make the stations cleaner and safer for everyone. Duh. And with 468 stations to slap fines at, the MTA is looking to profit at least $500,000 per day on litterers alone. Now THAT is making money!

2) Start the “Not On My Turf” program. It’s a program that grants anyone willing a free monthly Metrocard. All you have to do is work one 8 hour shift per week, standing at an assigned station, holding a trash bag. At the end of your shift, you personally schlep the trash bags onto a PATH train and unload them at any random place in New Jersey. Not only will the stations be litter-free, but the trash will also be something that the City of New York won’t have to worry about at all. Everyone wins!

Who in the hell knows if Prendergast’s proposal is even going to work. It’s possible that he’ll just try a few more stations, fail and then be done with it. Or maybe the OWS people will take a day off to fill a subway platform with as much litter as possible, starting a mass movement to promote the usage of trash cans. All that I know is that the next time I’m waiting for a train while sipping on a Diet Double Dew, there better be a nearby trash can to throw the empty bottle in. That, and they should also reopen all of the station bathrooms, to curb the number of people peeing in the tunnels, in between cars or on themselves. It only makes sense. Dew the math, MTA. Dew the math.


Originally posted 5/21/12