On the commute
Commuting to work by subway means that you do not have to think about where you’re going.
You just have to keep track of the stops and transfers.
Although, even that can have its challenges. I had to stop reading fiction on the train. I would get engrossed and look up pages later having missed my stop or a transfer by several stations.
Stops. Transfers. And your fellow passengers – try not to piss too many people off during your commute. (Some of us can muster a fierce and eloquent fury in the morning, even hungover, sleep deprived and lacking coffee. Or perhaps because.)
All of that said, at any given time but particularly in the morning, riding the subway frees a body up to do other things. You can’t do everything but you could …
Do your makeup.
Watch other people surreptitiously. (If they notice you noticing them, they are likely to get testy.)
Listen to music.
Dance (seated or standing) to the music you are listening to.
(My favorite example of this was a woman listening to Shania Twain’s song “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” at full crank through her headphones. Her seat choreography was elaborate, snaking her head from side to side, bouncing about, long fingernails fluttering downward in a waterfall motion. )
You could …
Catch up on your emails.
Play games on your phone.
Pull out your laptop.
(Along with being a city of hustlers and dreamers, New York is a city of seekers, students and self- improvers. Poll a room of New Yorkers and you will find many who are pursuing a degree or a certificate; are taking lessons or classes; have hired a coach or a tutor. Folks who want to learn: for fun, for profit, for advancement, or for their own edification.)
You could …
Talk to your travelling companions.
Talk to yourself. (silently or aloud)
Pick a fight.
Judge people (silently or aloud)
Try to make new friends.
(New Yorkers are pretty resistant to it in general. They may befriend. They might “friend” you. But making a friend takes time and attention. Who the hell has either anymore.)
Or express and experience pure joyfulness.
On one morning commute, I sit next to a woman who is chewing gum, listening to music, rocking out, and crocheting. She’s crocheting this lovely white scarf with a snowflake pattern. And she is crocheting it in synch with her jamming tunes. Her hands, the hook, her fingers dancing with, through, around and against the yarn in a fast, bouncy, thrilling way. She makes it look like the most fun in the world. All the fun is happening here in my subway car. She is all grace and confidence not missing a stitch, radiating joy.
And I wonder – did she have the most amazing bowl of oatmeal this morning? Is it the thought of the one she crochets for? Is it the act of crochet? (I have crocheted. It was never that joyful.) Is it the music? Or a memory from the night before?
I do not ask.
Instead, I get up and murmur “Excuse me.”