The requests trickle through the bowels of the New York City subway system, funneled to workers more accustomed to calls about tunnel fires or ceiling leaks.
A problem is reported at Columbus Circle one recent afternoon. A passenger could be in great distress. Delays are minimal, but movement on the tracks has perhaps never been slower.
So would a crew mind collecting its helmets and hauling its mechanical claw to rescue the turtle — fumbled by a rider — currently plotting its very methodical getaway from Midtown train traffic?
“It’s a big city,” a transit worker, Vinny Mangia, had said a day earlier, reciting a mantra of his office. “Somebody’s going to drop something.”
And somebody, if the item is sufficiently treasured, is going to try to pick it up. These are the fishermen of the subway system, cobbling together homemade instruments to pluck items from the tracks and release them to a grateful city.
Workers have returned a bag of hospital-bound blood and corralled a collection of artificial body parts, scooped engagement rings from the rails and reunited children with stuffed animals.