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Vintage Holiday Trains & Twas the Strike Before Christmas (in 2005)

NYC History NYC Story

Jonah, Matt, Mark and Gideon at Vintage Tea Party 2009!

For the past four years, the MTA has been treating its riders not to reliable subway service, or to low subway fares, but instead to classic subway cars on the F train line, every Sunday in December. While we’d certainly appreciate the first two, the third is a delightful throwback to the early days of fancy NYC mass transit, and so every year we Levys host a Vintage Tea Party on the Vintage New York Subway trains. (Which means we were doing Tea parties long before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck!)

But five years ago, it was a very different story. That brisk holiday season in 2005, Roger Toussaint of the Transit Workers Union made good on his threat to shut down the subways and buses for three days, in the middle of the holiday shopping season. It was cause to complain, so Matt and I wrote a lovely Christmas-themed poem about the transit-screw-you. Enjoy! Regardless of how many service changes you have to deal with on the weekends!

By Gideon Levy
Photo by Sam Horine

Twas the Strike Before Christmas
By Matt and Gideon Levy
Originally published in NonsenseNYC on 12/23/05

Twas the strike before Christmas, and all through the city
New Yorkers everywhere seethed with self-pity.
The MTA and the Union, tucked in snug at the Hyatt
While 7 million commuters readied to riot.

Kalikow and Toussaint clashed over wages
Over long negotiations and through several stages.
The Authority said finding more money is hard;
We blew $50 million on Holiday fare cards!

TWU yelled “benefits!” MTA shrieked “budget!”
And at midnight on Monday, they both cried out “Fudge it!”
The subways shut down, the buses were parked
The engines cut off, and the stations went dark.

And all through the city, from Rockaway to the Bronx
New Yorkers listened to the shouts and the honks
Of cars caught in gridlock and road-rage galore
And piece-mealing carpools so as to reach four.

Then over at the Hyatt, interrupting the fights
Was a whoosh of the wind, and out went the lights,
When a monstrous vision that was both awed and was feared,
Some Victorian figure, an apparition appeared.

But it was no demon, no beast and no hellion
It was none other than the ghost of old George C. McClellan!
He cried: “I am the great mayor, from New York in ‘Ought Four
The year that this subway first opened its doors

“And I drove that first train from City Hall headed north
I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop! Such was the force
Of this marvelous creation, our underground railway delight
So for the sake of New York, will you stop this damn fight?!

“You must quit these squabbles and come to a deal
So the buses and trains can return with true zeal!
On A train! On B train! On N train and Q!
On 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 train, too!”

With a whoosh and a gurgle and a clang and a sigh
The old Mayor went up to his City Hall in the sky,
Which freed up the meeting, and the fate of our home
When both sides agreed and threw us a bone.

So the strike ended there with an uneasy pact
But no one believed the other would clean up their act
And when the Post stopped shouting and you listened real close
You could hear the faint words of our benevolent ghost:

“To all those stuck in taxis and frozen on bikes
A Transit Strike to you all, and you can all take a hike!”

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