Thankfully the existence of the Metrocard spelled doom for the practice of token sucking, or “stuff and suck.”
Yet for decades, it was not uncommon for the criminally inclined or desperate to inhale a token out of the turnstile.
“The criminal carefully jams the token slot with a matchbook or a gum wrapper and waits for a would-be rider to plunk a token down,” wrote Randy Kennedy in 2003 in his wonderful but now-defunct New York Times column, Tunnel Vision.
“The token plunker bangs against the locked turnstile and walks away in frustration. Then from the shadows, the token sucker appears like a vampire, quickly sealing his lips over the token slot, inhaling powerfully and producing his prize: a $1.50 token, hard earned and obviously badly needed.”
Some token suckers amassed more than $50 in tokens a day, wrote Kennedy. “Token booth clerks were known to sprinkle chili powder into the token slots most often jammed.”
“Some officers resorted to spraying a small amount of Mace around the regular slots and keeping an eye out for the usual suspects. The ones with bright red lips were then arrested.”
The advent of the Metrocard meant the end of the token era (RIP 1953-2003). And with the demise of tokens went the stomach-turning sight of someone putting their lips on a turnstile.
[Bottom photo: Wired New York]