Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fascism, Jersey-Style: New Jersey Transit Edition

So I commute from Old Bridge to Midtown Manhattan every day, a 90+ minute trip that involves three legs: Driving (to a park & ride), hopping on a bus, and then either taking a subway or hoofing it to the office, depending on my morning mojo.

The bus trip is the longest segment, usually close to an hour, if not in excess.  And it was perhaps the only saving grace of the commute, as it is oft possible to spend a bulk of that time sleeping, and thus make up for any quality REM missed due to an ungodly wakeup hour.

Bus silence in the AM is pretty well maintained by unspoken (no pun intended) rule: No unnecessary taking, voices kept to whispers, cell-phone chatters frowned into muteness.

But there is no more silence on New Jersey Transit buses anymore.  For as of a few weeks ago, all buses appear to have been pre-programming with a small series of intrusive, offensive, repetitive announcements. All spaced out just far enough to allow you to doze off, only to be awakened by a syrupy-sweet woman's voice laying down the law:

"Smoking, drinking, and eating are not allowed on New Jersey Transit buses"

There's the obligatory nannyism:

"When exiting the bus, please use the handrails, and hold the hand of small children"

There's hucksterism of the NJT product:

"NJT monthly passes can save you over 30%"

And the announcement that seems to be in the highest rotation is the most aggregious of them all:

"Be aware of suspicious behavior.  Report it to NJT at 1-888-TIPS-NJT."

So there I am....nodding off, about to grab a little extra shut-eye, when I am awakened by a voice demanding that I treat my fellow citizens with apprehension, and narc on them should I feel they are somehow...out of line.

Only to doze off again, and be roused minutes later by the same voice, reciting, with forced niceness, the "rules", according to NJT. Followed shortly by some propaganda about saving money by using  government-operated transportation.   And then, as I begin to drop off one last desperate time, the voice of the state returns....reminding me once more of the number I should I call if I feel any of my fellow riders are possibly enemies of the state.

“There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.”

And when I finally just give up, and lean my blank face against the window to watch the industrial scenery roll by, I get to see billboards with full color "wanted" pictures, while others tout the strength and resilience of New Jersey, assuring us we are strong enough to rebuild.

Turn grief into strength, carry out Chris Christie's’s behests and carry the proletarian revolutionary cause through to the end...

Think I'm going a bit over the top?  Well, read this little tale out of Jersey from a few days back, and try to tell me that these two incidents are not connected, at least on a philosophical level.

You know what else I think?

That somewhere, at some time, we went horribly off-track....and are accelerating rapidly.  In the wrong direction...


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