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Subway warning doesn't break holiday stride

(Written Wednesday morning on the Manhattan-bound L and uptown F subway trains)

NEW YORK – I'm on my daily morning commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan just after hearing the news about a "plausible but unsubstantiated" terror threat to New York City subways, issued by federal authorities. And unless I end up staying out late and grabbing a cab, I will be on the subway again tonight. And every day and night in the foreseeable future, just like everybody else I know.

Because of all the things to be afraid of, terror attacks do not – and cannot — top my list. Cigarettes are obviously more dangerous, and riding the NYC subway is not an act of bravery. Longtime Gothamites say it was once, during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, but these days it's a relatively cheap, fast and efficient way to get around.

Image: New York City police officer on subway platform
AP
A New York police officer walks down stairs toward a subway platform, in midtown New York on Wednesday.  

I think about asking my fellow travelers for their take on the federal warning, but I don't want to break the news about a "plausible but unsubstantiated" threat in this light pre-holiday crowd.

It's a totally normal subway scene – a wonderfully diverse amalgamation of folks reading newspapers and paperbacks, taking mid-morning naps, talking smilingly amongst themselves, typing blog posts on their blackberries. Did the hipster girl across the way just smile at me?

As the subway reached 3rd Avenue, we are held "because of an earlier incident," and the gently authoritative robot conductor voice reminds us to use trash receptacles. His female counterpart, the smoothly digital station agent, advises that a Brooklyn-bound train is arriving on the opposite track. The next one is seven minutes behind. And more will undoubtedly arrive after that.

Normal. Seven-plus years after 9/11, and this city runs and runs and runs.

The most fear I've faced recently in New York was last Sunday night, when the empty tables at a fine restaurant made my companions wonder whether we – or anyone – would ever come back. Or rather, if the depressing, vacant chairs would reinforce the despondent market psychology of diners and spiral the joint out of business.

Frankly, I'm more fearful about my parents' retirement situation – they are back in West Michigan – than I am about anything else. New York will take care of itself. 

We'll keep concentrating on our lives, stacking-up on top of each other, living for the next encounter with another talented hard-working transplant from Xenia, Ohio, or Shanghai or Malibu or Islamabad. Proof-positive, at the 14 Street stop, I walk past a mustachioed guy in a guyabera playing a plaintive Cuban guitar.

That's why I'm here – still here – with my friends. And as a buddy from Tel Aviv always reminds me: we haven't been hit again yet!

Now the F-train has arrived, and we're reminded: "Please help us keep the subway system clean and litter-free."

Good news. Al-Qaida hasn't hit us in a while, the MTA hasn't cut service yet, the restaurants are still open, I'll have Thanksgiving in the leafy suburbs with a tribe comprised of San Franciscans, Detroiters, Parisians and who knows who else.

I switch trains without a hitch and head north, "Rockefeller Center next. Rockefeller Center next."

I hop out and buy some smokes from the South Asian lady in the station kiosk. She gives me a "Happy Thanksgiving" with my change, and I give her one right back.