Subway Conductor Selection
What’s the sitch with people who choose to become subway conductors?
I suppose they are those who enjoy being underground for extended periods of time without any human contact. Those who appreciate intermittently shouting scripted gibberish over a crackling loudspeaker, until it all blends into the blur of a dark tunnel wall rushing past, drifting in and out of a dizzying consciousness, the false euphoria of their last heroin bump slowly fading to the droning numb they know too well…
…does anyone choose this profession?
Or is it one of those ones where the government picks out kids who look promising early in their development… Like Olympic gymnastics… Or members of the next big boyband.
I think this is the likely scenario as, even at quick glance, there are many parallels between these occupations. Long hours spent alone. Masses of people following close behind you. Strange working hours. Short careers. Very few, very specialized skills. These are the kind of jobs that no one would wish upon any person, yet, are absolutely necessary to our nation’s wellbeing.
What sort of attributes would be selected for?
The paradox is that, those who would be most comfortable in a subway conductor’s environment are not qualified for the job. Namely the blind, the deaf and the mute. These people need to be aware enough to not put the lives of citizens at risk, while unaware enough to deal with, literally, driving around in circles all day.
They need to stay focused on their task, while staying detached from the reality of their situation… this sounds almost Zen-monk-like.
I recently did a little reading about the 14th Dalai Lama.
He is the most recent incarnation of Avalokiteśvara, the enlightened being who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, according to the Yellow Hat school of Tibetan Buddhism. When the current Dalai Lama dies a search for the next one begins, in a process that can take several years. The Nechung Oracle is consulted (I won’t delve into how that guy is selected), along with the other High Lamas of the Gelugpa Tradition, and even members of the Tibetan government.
They all travel to watch for signs from the holy lake Lhamo La-tso, sometimes experiencing visions or speaking directly with Gendun Drop, the lake’s female guardian spirit. Often the deceased Dalai Lama is cremated and the direction of the smoke is monitored to indicate the direction of rebirth. Needless to say, they have their ways.
Once the counsel has found a potential candidate, the boy will undergo a series of tests to affirm the rebirth. In one of the tests the boy is presented with a set of artifacts, only some of which belong to the Dalai Lama. If the boy chooses the correct items, it is seen as a sign that the Lama has taken his new form. This is an important selection for everyone involved, so they got some stringent criteria.
I can only assume there is a similar process for selecting the handful of subway conductors faithfully making commutes possible every morning in our nation’s largest cities.
The ‘high counsel’ in charge of selecting these chosen youths keep the process secret in order to protect the conductors identity, as well as to keep this great tradition intact.
In our increasingly faithless, tradition-eschewing, logical society, average citizens would not stand for such a seemingly random, forcible selection process. They would put an end to it, citing the lack of individual choice and their absolute faith in the ‘invisible hand’ of economics to fill the conductors’ positions, even after the destruction of this ancient, subway-conductor-selection wisdom.
What they don’t understand is our subways would cease to run.
Yes, even in this economy. Perhaps people would sign up to be conductors, but they would inevitable fall dead at the controls, waves of violent seizure racking their contorted forms due to the absolute deprivation of all sensory input and social interaction.
Even the strongest-willed individuals cannot simply show up one day and expect to survive as a subway conductor. They will be overwhelmed.
That is why the high counsel is in place.
Yes it sounds silly, archaic, unbelievable even. But primordial wisdom passed down from enlightened beings generation to generation, while hard to understand for our shuttered modern minds, stems from some absolute truth. Stems from a place beyond our feeble comprehension. Children must be chosen who can mentally endure hardships we can’t even imagine.
Those children sacrifice everything to make sure our commutes are safe and on schedule.
And they are glad to do it. Because they feel the spirit of subway conductors-past flowing in their bodies. And they relish the chance to carry on this most holy of occupations, into the far distant future.