I traveled into Manhattan today for the first time since I returned home from England on Saturday. I was only away for 10 days, fer pete’s sake, and yet evidence of economic terror was suddenly everywhere. For one, two delis I visited in the theater district, hoping to pick up a soda to sneak into my screening of Body of Lies this afternoon, had the gall to be asking, at one, $2.25, and at the other, $2.50 for a 20-ounce Diet Dr Pepper. The going rate had previously been $1.50, $1.75, maybe at an extreme $1.90. I refused to give in to such extortion, and went sans soda to my screening. Fortunately, another retailer I frequent — a newsstand in a subway station on my way home — was still charging his usual $1.75, so I satisfied my artificially-sweetened-water jones later. Still… $2.50 for a soda not purchased at a multiplex concession stand? Outrageous!
And then, during my subway ride home with my still-$1.75 soda, I noticed the most extraordinary thing: a No. 6 train with ads on the outside of the cars. Never before in the history of NYC has such a thing been done. Ads in the car? Absolutely. The MTA has even allowed advertisers to take over the entire interior of cars, including floors, ceilings, and seats. But on the exterior of cars? I was stunned. (I make particular note of it here, too, because it was for a new History Channel documentary series.) I have no objection to advertising per se, and I’d far rather have subway cars wrapped in ads for almost anything than have to pay even more for a subway ride (our fares keep going up even as trains get more crowded and service is as bad as it’s ever been). But surely this is a sign of desperation on the part of the MTA. And the MTA — that is, the Metropolitan Transit Authority — is not denying it:
Note, however, that the subway line mentioned in the above video is not the one on which I saw the ads that turned my head, and also that the ads I saw were not the kind that fully wrap subway cars, as pictured in that video, but of the more ordinary banner type like we already see on the side of MTA buses.
I’ve been trying to stay detached from my own worry about the economy and my own money issues by taking a step back and cataloguing how it’s manifesting in ways beyond my checkbook. And these were two of the most obvious instances I’ve seen so far. I expect things will only get worse, and more noticeable, in the coming weeks and months.
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