John Petruzzi’s office is, all things considered, not a terribly unpleasant place to work. It could use a window, and an Internet connection might be nice, but colorful art hangs on the walls, and the subway access is unbeatable.
Mr. Petruzzi operates Elevator 120 in the 190th Street subway station in Manhattan. He reports to his desk, a stack of three milk crates, at 2 p.m. and proceeds to travel more than eight vertical miles — 140 feet up, 140 feet down, hundreds of times a day — before clocking out.
The subway elevator operator is at once an amenity and a relic, a last gasp of the full-service subway era when a touch of Park Avenue class permeated the city’s prosaic subterranean world. The twin tides of automation and budget cuts have thinned the operators’ ranks; today, only a few full-time attendants remain, all of whom work in five deep-bore subway stations nestled inside the alpine reaches of northern Manhattan.