The World through a New Commuter’s Eyes

I have had a variety of commutes to work in the past. 3 minutes to Dakota. 45 minutes to Gleneagles. 20 minutes on a good day, 60 minutes on a bad day to University.

But they were all by car. And yes, shamefully the 3 minute one was by car too.

Now I have to rely on public transport. I have joined the ‘Bridge and Tunnel Club’. One of those Subway/PATH wankers.

But it’s so good here. Fast, reliable, fairly clean – at least cleaner than I expected. Especially compared to Scotrail.

But I haven’t had a bad day yet, that will be the true test. Even after all the bad expectations that were built up about St. Patrick’s Day travel – it was fine!

What makes it even better is the pass for unlimited trips on the PATH and the subway. So you don’t have to shell out every time you want to go somewhere.

This could get dangerous when people suggest nights out.

Early Mornings

The subway is monotonous. Everyone has their eyes shut, or if they are managing to keep them open, they’re glazed – you can imagine tiny little sticks propping them open. Everyone just dreams of their bed on the 7.27 train.

I had a couple of days commuting from Midtown Manhattan. There’s a reason people don’t live in Midtown unless they have to. It’s busy. It’s sweaty. Everyone is pushing and shoving. Nobody looks up from their phone as they march on, so stuck in their own routine that they don’t take the time to look around.

Now I have the commute from Newport. Smoother. But my ears pop every time we pass through the tunnel under the Hudson River. It’s going to be a pain after a while.

Underground

You can see some interesting things under ground level. I say interesting. Because I have no idea how else to describe it.

That homeless guy with seven suitcases. How he can have so much stuff I have no idea. Surely he could build a house out of the crap he carts around with him! He just stands, facing the wall in the tunnel, swaying around talking to himself.

Then there’s the musician. Playing guitar in the middle of an already overcrowded platform. But he’s good so I guess it’s OK.

In the morning I always see families heading to school. That looks like a painful way to start the day. The kids that want to be in bed, mum’s worried about getting to work on time, and then battling with hundreds of other people to stay together and get there in one piece.

The evening group is a little different. A lot of high school kids (youths – shit I just got old). Walking around like they’re so cool. But then I can’t argue with them, they’re kids that live in NEW YORK, they are.

Getting the hang of it

So I think I may have sussed it. At least for now. 5 minute walk from the apartment. PATH to 14th Street. Walk from Avenues of America to 7th Avenue (aiming for the Slice shop, passing the Salvation Army HQ – I’ve found my markers after walking in the wrong direction twice). Express train to 72nd or 96th, depending if I’ve grabbed a seat and can be bothered parting with it. Then a local to Cathedral Parkway. Grab a bottle of water and fruit from the market. Walk round the corner to work. Plus, I have my options to mix it up if I feel adventurous or start to get bored of the same route.

It’s like my own little recipe for how to start the day. Bring on the cook book of how to travel the city.

Before I got here I thought the travel was going to be the worst bit of my day. Fair enough, maybe the trip home could take half the time because I’m tired, but actually it’s quite fun.

And working so far away gives me the opportunity to see bits of the city that I probably wouldn’t get a chance, or give much thought to seeing otherwise.

The shopping challenge

After the painful process of a ‘grocery shop’ – not a food shop, they couldn’t understand that term, because it’s so different – I have quickly learnt that a rucksack is my new best friend and there is no space in my life for a handbag anymore.

I even find myself looking around the subway to see what kinds of bags other people are carrying. They probably think I’m eyeing them up to steal something.

I discovered the nightmare of handbags/shopping/subways when I stopped at Trader Joe’s on 72nd to start filling my cupboards on the way home from a very long day.

Now that’s an experience in itself! (But I’ll get to that another day).

As I left the shop, reached into my bag for my subway pass, looked down and realised the handle had torn off my shopping bag. Ideal. Never again. Lesson learnt.

Good old Officer Damian

Going back to good old Mr. NYPD. I was sitting quite happily minding my own business on my way to work. An announcement crackled through the speaker “Passengers, please watch out for any suspicious behaviour and people getting pushed on the tracks”.

Holy crap. He wasn’t lying. This is real. People get pushed on the tracks. I didn’t know whether to laugh or run to the airport.

Next Challenge

Working out how to get to class – surely it’ll be a breeze and I can play on another line one night a week…

The best bit about this post. I got a seat on the subway and managed to write this there! (Not on my laptop though – that’s just asking for trouble).

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