Service of Living Underground

February 28th, 2022

Categories: Euphemism, Homeless, Subway, War

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

What happened last week was a one-off: The shower water turned freezing and I shivered rushing to clean away a head full of cream rinse.

The next day was the first of the war in Ukraine. I saw Clarissa Ward, #CNN #News, reporting from a subway in Kharkiv. It was filled with families fleeing bombing, most standing--at least where the camera captured them--as there wasn't enough room to sit. Others huddled in darkened subway cars.

And I grumbled about a dose of cold water?

Ward and many others equated the readymade shelter to London subways during the WWII blitz. One mother, sandwiched between her nine and six year olds, carried a quarter bag of what looked like chips which she showed Ward when asked “do you have any food?” Ward asked her why she seemed so calm. “For the children,” the mother replied quietly.

Subways are homes to many others around the world. David Meyer wrote “Hundreds of people are living in NYC subway stations and tunnels, MTA says.” According to Meyer in his New York Post article, a subway task force studying underground incidents recently uncovered 29 “homeless encampments” in 89 stations and tunnels–housing some 350 people.

Euphemisms are the language of civil servants. When a person is found on subway tracks–whether they are suicidal, fall, are pushed or for any other reason–they call it a “track intrusion.” According to Meyer, “Taskforce Leader Jamie Torres-Springer says that homeless tunnel encampments directly lead to track intrusions.”

Lisa Daglian of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee told Meyer: “Nobody should be living in the subway system, whether it’s in a subway car, whether it’s in a subway station, whether it’s in a subway tunnel. That is not a home. There needs to be sufficient housing for people to live.”

Do you find yourself complaining about minor mishaps or discomfort and then reprimand yourself when you compare them to real problems? Can you imagine looking to a subway for shelter during hostilities–whether as the result of an invasion or the war on poverty?

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6 Responses to “Service of Living Underground”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Whenever I feel like complaining about life’s small hassles, I try to look at the big picture and I realize how fortunate I’ve been in so many ways — health, family, a roof over my head. So thankful…always. G-d’s been watching over me, I feel.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Me too! At a low point in my life I envisioned living on Montague Street in Brooklyn with my then dear dog Cassie and two shopping bags. That never happened. My guardian angels work overtime for me.

  3. lucrezia Said:

    The thought of living underground is unpleasant, but if homeless, it provides protection from the weather, and if under attack, it could be a life-saving maneuver.

  4. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I do find subways as a substitute for a home a simply horrific concept and a testimony to social and governmental failure. On the other hand even before the crisis in the Ukraine I find myself ashamed at the minutiae I find intolerable especially during Covid when I compare myself to the trials and tribulations of so many other people Americans as well as people the world over. We are basically spoiled as a nation and many of us are blissfully unaware of that fact. We need to get a grip on reality, but it seems that for at least 50% of our population with respect to health, finance, voting rights, racial equality, economic policy, and even basic manners that is not in the offing.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Under attack, I would think that the basement of an apartment or office building or place of worship might be a better place to hide from danger. Rats and lack of water or bathrooms in a subway would make a bad situation worse. As for the homeless, I haven’t studied the situation but apparently the shelters in NYC are dangerous and unappealing. That could and should be fixed and would be a far cry safer and cleaner than a subway tunnel.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wish I could disagree. I have discussions with people who complain about being overtaxed when they live in comparative luxury and have happily taken advantage of programs such as unemployment insurance–and at the height of the pandemic for the increases and extensions–Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. That said, those who are under-taxed would make it a lot easier on everyone else if they paid their fair share such as corporations that pay $0 and extremely wealthy individuals who apparently don’t pay much.

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