Noted in NYC

On the commute

One of the hardest parts of living in New York is how long it takes to get anywhere. I’m not saying I’d like to be driving to work—I’d much rather keep my fifteen or so minutes of walking and twenty minutes on the train reading than be stuck in traffic (or have to finish learning to drive)—but sometimes a commute can become downright frustrating. My first two years in New York, I lived off the G train. The easiest route to work, with cross-the-platform transfers, involved three trains.

Then I moved, and it only took one train to get me to my office. I moved again, and again I took one train, and managed to get a seat every day—until construction forced me to transfer to a crowded express train. Sometimes the express skips my stop and I’m back to three trains. Reading is a challenge on such a crowded, claustrophobia-inducing ride, and when you’re constantly getting on and off trains it’s hard to focus on a book.
But. The express train goes across the Manhattan Bridge, and as I went one day, the lack of seats left me perfectly positioned to watch the Statue of Liberty pass the window as the sun made its way toward the horizon, and I thought, maybe it’s worth it, this bother, if I get a few more rides like this, where I’m reminded that the sun and the water and the Manhattan skyline make a lovely view.
And when I do get a seat, or even when I don’t, if I have the right book, a subway ride can pass without me noticing how long it’s taken. Just me and my book, the way I used to be with reading before I discovered Netflix. The subway ride is the perfect place to escape from, into a book, especially when I’m jostling elbows with the woman next to me or straining to reach the overhead bar.
So as much as I look forward to October, when I can just sit on one train with my nose in a book, right now I’ll try to enjoy the ride. Today as we crossed the bridge I thought the city looked unreal, like something I was seeing in the swooping opening credits of a movie, or like an oversided Panorama. Maybe next week I’ll watch it disappear into fog.
What are your favorite (and least favorite) parts about your commute, in NYC or elsewhere?

7 thoughts on “On the commute

  1. I love my Hong Kong commute! Though it can get pretty crowded, and I don't live near cool expat stuff, it's hard to beat 25 minutes door to door. And when the sun is shining, it's a beautiful ride – even out here in the boonies of HK where I work, the cityscape is gorgeous!

    Too bad I might have to move soon – but I'll make an effort to move somewhere with a good expat scene, and maybe make a few new friends that way :)

  2. MJ, that commute sounds so nice! Is it aboveground the whole way?? I hope you find a new place with an equally awesome commute. And maybe I WILL have to come visit you, especially if you stay for a while…

  3. I often manage a seat and I love reading on the on the train. It's harder when I'm standing or cramped, but it's possible, at least. I love when I have the chance to take the train across the Manhattan Bridge. It's always one of those moments when it hits me that I live in NYC.

  4. Yes, exactly! I also think when I first moved to NYC, we drove in on the BQE and got a good look at Manhattan and I had that moment, then, too, of, “Oh! This is where I'm going to live!”

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