Thursday, May 23, 2013

Along for the Ride


Pastis Bistro in the Meatpacking District
My recent visit to New York proved to me that it was a city with a lot of people in community. With each other. With what the city offers. And with the city itself. And I got to be in community with them. 

On the subway. 

I rode the subway to see a Broadway show. 

I rode the subway to Times Square. 

I rode the subway to Central Park. 

I rode the subway to Grand Central Station. 

I rode the subway all the way to Harlem. 

And actually, I’m not too crazy about the subway. I’m not a huge fan of public transportation in general. But I realize in cities like New York, it's a convenient and inexpensive option. 

My mother’s friend Mary traveled with us to New York, hosted us at her son's apartment, and decided we would take the subway everywhere we couldn't walk. 

She likes taking the subway. She navigates it expertly with her subway route maps. (Except for the time we missed our stop and two people overheard us talking and thankfully came out of their self-induced subway trance to tell us to get off immediately and go in the opposite direction.)

Grand Central Station
I'm not an enthusiast of city dirt and grime. I like my air clean and fragrant and odor-free. 

I’m not trained to keep up with the crowds to rapidly board the subway. At one of our stops, the door closed behind my mother and me, leaving Mary, our subway navigator outside. 

Even though we didn’t have a prearranged plan, we all managed to get off at the next stop and attempt to find each other. We were talking on the phone to Mary, twirling around and describing which street corner we were standing on. 

Just then, the crowds parted and Mary was standing a few feet behind us, talking on her phone, twirling around staring at the street signs. Whew. A subway-navigation disaster narrowly averted.


I realize there is some sort of subway etiquette code that New Yorkers adhere to. 

On my very first ride, I asked a man if he was saving the seat next to him. He seemed astonished that I would ask. I soon learned that unless you want to stand, don't ask, just grab. 

But I’m sure many strange and outrageous things occur on the subway. To avoid acknowledging any of those strange and outrageous things, people stare straight ahead or close their eyes completely. They act as if they are alone on the subway, with their earbuds connected to their devices. 

I can see the benefits of this approach. While the subway was moving, a woman opened the back door and walked from car to car, announcing in a loud voice that she was hungry and needed money. Everyone ignored her. 

It was unnerving to me, but from the non-reactions of my fellow subway riders, I guess it happens pretty often since they were unfazed.

Central Park
Just one woman, well into her 80s, recognized that I was a tourist and breached subway protocol to ask me where I was from. 

She told me about the Broadway play she’d just seen. A one-woman show. In the character of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Who took all of her clothes off at the end of the show and entered a pool of water. “And let me tell you, she was no spring chicken,” the lady told me. 

Since I couldn't quite think of a response, I started to understand why people might avoid talking to fellow travelers on the subway.


Our host Mary's one concession to the weekend of subway travel was to let us take a taxi to and from the airport so we wouldn't have to drag our luggage on the subway. 

I sat in the backseat as we darted in and out of traffic, greatly enjoying the view above-ground. 

But I realized that I had acquired a new aptitude. One I'm not sure I aspired to, but now relished nonetheless. 

I was a subway-rider. 

I rode the subway all over this big city of New York. 

For a weekend anyway. 

As I trudged up and down the stairs to subway stops, often bungling the scanning of my subway pass, I was part of the crowd of New Yorkers heading home or to Broadway shows or to their exciting big-city jobs. 

I know we're made for community. I know we're made for relationships. But I’m thinking maybe I was made for a slightly smaller community. 

A community with a little less hurry and scurry. 

And definitely a community where I don't have to take the subway. 

Enormous billboard in Times Square paying tribute to my favorite makeup in the world: MAC.

8 comments:

  1. Love the photos. And I am with you. I much rather take a taxi than the subway!

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    Replies
    1. Bree,
      I think we could be good traveling colleagues since we're of the same mind (we'll add it to Hob Nobs!) Taking the subway was certainly an adventure for me!

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    2. It's on the "Hob Nobs" list! :)

      Delete
  2. Your descriptions are so amusing I chuckled out loud several times!!!

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  3. I love how you describe your travels! I always feel like I've been there, or at least wish I was.
    Christy

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    Replies
    1. Christy,
      Travel is always better with friends! At least you can come along in spirit . . . until the baby gets older and we can make actual plans! :)

      Delete
  4. You'e a brave soul, venturing into the subway! Wow - I'd have gone by cab! So fun to share in your trip - love the pictures! You've had so many experiences in the last year - amazing!

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    Replies
    1. Sharon,
      I'm trying to be more courageous and take more risks and I'm pretty sure the subway would qualify! :) I would have liked to travel via cab a bit more, though!

      Delete

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