There’s no better way to take the buzz out of your morning than by having some jackass-in-a-suit—or, potentially, a tourist—fumble at the Metro North/MTA ticket machine when you’re in a hurry. You’ve got to get to your hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut, and your train peaces out in four minutes. You’ve done this routine so many times that you know you have exactly enough time to buy your ticket and scroll over to the seat you always sit in before they slam the doors.
But this slow-poke ahead of you is about to make you miss your train, meaning you’ll have to wait a whole hour until the next one. Can’t let that happen. So you’re kind of on the verge of going up to the machine and just typing in all the stuff for him because, at this point, you have all the screens and selections memorized. In order. You don’t even read them, really, you just punch in the info before the machine asks for it because you’ve done this so many times.
You’ve done this so many times you “pre-walk” in the subway to the car that will deposit you at the exact point where you need to be. You’ve done this so many times you know if you don’t leave your house by a certain time, you’ll will miss the train. You’ve done this so many times that there’s no greater feeling than running late but making the train right before it takes off.
Commuting is possibly the most annoying part of living in an urban oasis. The traveling isn’t the worst part—it’s the whole process around it. But in some ways, everybody commutes because people rarely live immediately next door to their workplace or school, no matter where you live. In New York City, it takes at least 30-minutes to get anywhere. Outside of New York, it doesn’t matter whether you’re teleporting from the suburbs of Maryland to DC or Baltimore, from Menlo Park to San Francisco, or from Providence to Boston, the commuter faces impossibly annoying obstacles almost every day. A sampling:
Annoying Obstacle #1: Don’t even think about taking the L train anywhere between Lorimer Street and Manhattan between the hours of 7:30am—10:30am on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Unless you really enjoy having your face buried in some dudes armpit, in which case, get in at Bedford at 9:15am.
Annoying Obstacle #2: Roll into a packed train late, no seats, and have people stare at you like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.” Or, get to your train early, relax, stretch out, read the paper, get comfy. As the train fills up, stare at other people like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.” People are so territorial!
For the past two years I’ve been commuting from Brooklyn to my school up in Connecticut. It’s only a cool 75-miles away, but with Metro North it takes a full 5 days (100 minutes) to get there. I lived in Connecticut for three whole years at the beginning of my program, but I was always coming into “the city” for talks, parties, concerts, internships, whatever. So once I got through with coursework, I figured it was better to just move back to New York full-time—it’s where I’m already from, anyway. I’ve had a ball going back to my roots and everything. But there’s only so much of it one can take!
Commuters do so by choice—it’s expensive and time consuming. They’re either doing it because the job pays a lot, or because the school is fabulous, or because they have a secret lover they get to romp with every time they pop into town. Commuters are a really particular breed, almost like automatons goingthrough the motions just to get to the next step. Your life becomes a rhythm of rushing, taxis, trains, and placelessness.
Thank god, I guess, for smartphones and iPads to take our minds off it.