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A Basketball Was Stuck On an NYC Subway Track for Three Weeks

The Times is on it.

Most subway trash is there and gone: vacuumed up by a cleaning car, whipped away by an oncoming train’s power, or incinerated in a small track fire.

Some subway trash, though, sticks around—and steals our hearts. Such was the case with a lone, balding basketball, which sat on the uptown 1 train tracks at West 18th Street in Chelsea for weeks, and enamored a journalist so much that it inspired a 22-paragraph ode in yesterday’s New York Times.

Reporter Jacob Bernstein tracked the basketball’s presence on Twitter, posting several photos of it over the course of the month. Then he started reporting in earnest.

The basketball “first made its appearance on the southern end of the station sometime around March 1,” Bernstein wrote. “…this means that the ball managed to narrowly escape being run over roughly 4,300 times.”

Bernstein spoke to several locals who hadn’t noticed the ball. He also put some hard questions to subway sanitation experts, who explained that the cleaning cars are built to swallow up small, floaty bits of trash, like boxes and coffee cups—not hardier, more stoic ones, like basketballs.

After about 3 weeks, the basketball disappeared. Godspeed, basketball—and our condolences to Mr. Bernstein.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.