Some people get orgasms from their masochism. I am one of them. Maybe that’s why so many are able to pass by the depression-soaked poem in the Bryant Park underpass of the subway very little known as “Commuter’s Lament or A Close Shave.” While most who pass by Norman B. Colp’s–arguably the most notable poet NYC has ever known, or paid attention to–harsh words each day, few are actually moved to let its realness make them question what they’re doing or why they’re still going to work.
Implemented in 1991 (making it a 25 year old institution), the design of the poem was based on a roadside ad campaign by Burma-Shave à la “Stop Here” followed by another sign five miles ahead that would read something like “Good Times Ahead” (though, unfortunately such promised “good times” never included any kind of sex). Thus, walking by Colp’s verses serves to leave you with a particularly profound effect of melancholy. After all, who else but a Midtown office worker could withstand such back to back questions as “Why bother?” and “Why the pain?” As if we had a fucking answer.
And yet, somehow, seeing it each day only serves to fortify the zeal for masochism contained within the hole where the soul should be (somewhere in your chest, one imagines). That hole that each office worker wants to fill with money, “success” and “making it” in the city. In any event, in case you’re not subjected to the sight of it each day, the entire poem is as follows:
Why the pain?
Just go home.
Do it again.
So it goes in the minds and hearts of every Midtown shill.