Commuting: Seeing the Little Things

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The Little Things

After these past few days of snow in NYC, I can’t help but go off on a tangent and explore this idea of commuting. In a few words, I could sum it up: it’s a grind.

Just a little insight of my experience with commuting, I commuted over 15 hours a week my first semester in New York, a tiring task that demands energy and motivation.  Normally, most people don’t even live in the city, so I share this journey with hundreds of other people trying to get to the 9 to 5.

First things first, I would like to take a moment to pat myself on the back after the previous semester’s commuting time. Hell, nobody in the city is going to pat you on the back for it. In fact, living in one of the most stressful cities in the nation, I commend each and every one of you that takes the time out of their day to get from point A to point B. Sincerely, this is the most that I can give you as a broke college student.

This commendation includes my fellow college students that have dorms just a few streets away from their lecture. In the morning when the weather is absolutely atrocious, I probably wouldn’t have the desire to go to class.

However, I don’t have time to keep dreaming. I got to keep moving, wake up and remind myself that I’m alive.

Since I have class at 9:45, I try to wake up at least two hours before it starts. After showering the previous night before and preparing my next-day clothes, I wake up and get dressed. I make sure that all my books are in my bag. When I get finished second-guessing myself, I bolt out with the thought of my bed later on.

The toughest part about this commute is wishing for a fast commute. Most of the time, it isn’t going to happen. In fact, when you think that you have gone as early as you possibly can, chances are hundreds of other people had the same idea. This is a humbling experience that reminds you that: “You’re not the only one that has to get up early in the morning to do something that you probably don’t want to do.”

Fortunately, I remind myself that an education is worth the hour commute. Unlike last semester when I was bussing tables in the city, I would tell myself “This is bloody miserable.” As a student of life, it demands hard work. You could imagine the look on my boss’ face when I told him I was done. He replied “But you’re one of the hardest workers I have!”

“Yeah, but I’m tired as hell.”

My roommate mentioned yesterday that noticing the little things tends to be healthy on a long and miserable commute.

As I stand waiting for the express train to arrive, I think about this for a moment. For the past few weeks, it has always been the weather that’s on my mind. I notice how cold it is, and it is through this observation that I recall the cold places that I have lived in my life. There’s Alaska, there’s Korea, not so much Italy, but there’s also Virginia. These places are very cold during the winter, but at the moment, the thought of living there one time in my life makes me feel warm on the inside. How charming.

Then the train arrives.

When I hop onto a car that’s further down from the station entrance, I expect to find a seat. You guessed it, not many seats on this train. I stand from 30 to 40 minutes clutching a pole. Something little that I notice is how many children are going to school. Their parents are with them, and the kids are full of energy. I try to harbor their energy, because I remember how excited I would be to go to school when I was younger.

With my headphones plugged in, I try to listen to “sunny weather music.” A friend of mine coined this term when I was living in a cold and miserable place one time; the best way to overcome the misery was to listen to happy sounds, things that sounded like they were made on a secluded island somewhere far away.

Naturally, I look up after navel gazing and see that the car is filled up to its brim; we’re now going through Brooklyn where a lot of people live. Sooner or later, we pass over the Williamsburg Bridge and I can catch a glimpse of the skyline through the gap that two people’s shoulder blades create.

“Today’s going to be longer than an hour’s commute,” I whisper to myself.

When I arrive at Essex, I transfer to the F train going uptown towards Lexington – 63rd Street. The train is packed as usual, but at least it empties out around lower Manhattan. Once we hit 34th St. through 47th, most people work around these areas so the train car gets a little breathing space. I sit down on whatever empty seats are available and rest for a few minutes or so.

Once I hit my stop, I get off and speed walk up the escalators. I start to feel like a lab rat because I’ve been underground for too long. I can smell the cheese that is fresh air.

I submerge towards the surface and hear the honks and the heels of oxford shoes. Ladies and gents surround me in their best attire, or perhaps their worst, going to who-knows-where. I still have a bit of walking to do, so I walk 5 streets up before getting to my school.

I look at my watch. It took me 50 minutes to get to class today. It’s the little things.

When I finish the day, I go back to my place to complete a full circle. I feel like Campbell’s hero, going through the trials and tribulations that a hero goes through before making his or her change. I see a reflection in my phone; the only thing that’s changed is that there is fuzz on my face. I’m going to need to shave I think.

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I take a train uptown and it goes through Queens, until I reach this stop above.

While on the ride back, I see a lady on the verge of rest, probably thinking about what a long day it has been. I notice that the seat next to her is empty, and I wonder how she is feeling. Is she genuinely tired? Is she tense because she’s on a train that she’s not used to being on? Or did she have a bad day? These are the questions of our lives, my friend.

Once arrive at my stop, she too gets off hurriedly. I don’t know where she wanders off to, but I hope that she arrives safely to her destination. Point B is just around the corner.

Finally, I think. Seeing the J train sign is always a highlight of my day. It’s analogous to seeing the exit sign that says “Disneyland Left.” Yet, the journey is not over yet. I wait for what seems like an eternity for the transfer train to come. I review my thoughts over the day. I reflect on the assignments I have. I revel in the blank air that doesn’t feed my stomach. I stare at the ground, and then it happens – I feel the breeze on my face. The train is coming to take me back to my beloved bed. It’s here to rescue me once again!

At the end of the day, it is a rite of passage. For an individual, it is an earned reputation to be a commuter in New York. It also gives an insight to the tension that most out-of-towners probably see as “rude.” Perhaps it’s a question of “Why are we rude?” The answer I provide is that we are simply trying to get to point B unscathed, unbothered, unassuming.

Now that I’ve established that as indifferently as possible, an opinion that is different amongst many other commuters, let me give you a parting insight of what’s to come.

A train is coming, a train that will take you forward. Are you willing to hop on even if the commute will take a while? If you do, let me know. I’ll probably be there waiting to get to my destination as well.

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