"I'm just gonna start hopping the turnstiles," Blandon joked, when asked what alternatives he might have to paying for the subway. "That's it."
The weekend after the MTA board voted to increase fares and cut services, I rode in circles between Marcy and Myrtle avenues on the JMZ, the oft forgotten brown line whose Z line is slated for elimination. Standing at dismal florescent stations, I talked to riders about the proposed changes while we wasted time, waiting for trains.
Mac Adessa and I were at the Myrtle Avenue stop for about eleven minutes together. Adessa, a Park Slope resident for the past six years, has a transient construction job that takes him between boroughs. While he admitted the hike is not a huge financial burden for him, he said he was still upset.
"It's just another pinch," Adessa said, "everybody is screwed for money right now, everybody is." He used words like "ridiculous" and "unfair" though his voice maintained composure throughout our wait, which only added to my own restlessness.
Others, however, were unable to contain their outrage. "I feel that it's an injustice for the working person," Blandon's wife, Patricia, said, shaking her head. "We're going through a crisis. How much more does the government want us to dish out?" The woman sitting beside her nodded in agreement.
Later that night, while I sat on a stopped M train at Marcy, waiting for the service to switch, a tall MTA worker with his thermos in tow led a couple and their baby carriage onto the train. He took out his master key and opened the doors to the opposite platform, where they had meant to get on. "Bless you, sir, thank you," said the husband, overzealously grateful for the conductor's help.
Yet despite these instances of kindness, many seem fed up with the MTA in general. The fare increase is only one of a myriad of problems. Marcy Defreits, a kindergarten teacher in her early 60's, who has been through several fare hikes in her day, said it's the lack of benefits from this one that has her most frustrated.
"I don't think [there] should be a fare hike,” she said, "because the service is no better. It's remained the same, and even worse, and why should we be paying 50 cents [more] when we are not getting better service, our income is not going higher? I don't think it’s fair."
"For the past ten years," Defreits added, "every weekend there is some kind of service, a repair that they're doing they've never finished."
She seemed more tired than angry as she explained her hour-long commute and the endless waiting time between buses and trains each weekend. She has been living in East New York for 27 years, traveling to Lower Manhattan with weekly MetroCards that will now cost $6 more. Another fare hike, Defreits said sadly, and closed her eyes. I left her alone at Myrtle Avenue, with 45 minutes left in her commute home.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, one man, Moses Roth, a 25-year-old who moved to Williamsburg from Israel when he was five, tried to look at the bigger picture.
"The clock goes down, and it has to go back up, so its gonna be better," he said, of the current U.S. economy, "but the metro price is gonna be the same. If they raise 50 cents now, and the economy goes back up, who cares if we paid 50 cents then? Fifty cents will be cheap!"
As I tried to digest his worldly rationale, Roth added that he'll be moving upstate in two months, where the fare hike won't affect him.
At the end of my journey, a man in his twenties with spiky hair who had refused to be interviewed re-approached me to sum up Brooklyn's frustration.
"You're writing about the MTA money?"
"Tell your newspaper I said, '[expletive] the MTA!'" and he ambled down the subway station platform, to wait.