WORD staff in advanced writing classes can be required to write about their MTA – Metropolitan Transportation Authority – commutes. Most are straphangers.
I moved to Washington Heights from Forest Hills on the 1st of September, 2010. I work at a bar in Midtown West. I ride a train mostly downtown. On school days I take a train to college, then I walk to work, regardless of the weather, and at 4.30 a.m., when I am done with work, I take a cab back home.
September 29, 2010
Commuting to Hunter.
For a while I couldn’t find the fastest route to campus. I asked friends, consulted Google map and my intuition. I chose Google over all. Google says walk to 155th street, take a D train to 161st Street.
I skip the walk and take a C train to the D instead.
3.24 p.m. I am waiting for a C at the 163rd Street station. A middle age Asian woman sits on a bench. A Victoria Secret bag is on the next seat with an umbrella in it. She looks through her purse, takes out what looks like a movie ticket and an Applebee’s receipt, and then puts them back in the purse. She takes out an iPhone and puts a case on it.
An MTA employee is cleaning the station. He looks inside a garbage can, and pokes it with a broom. Homeland Security vigilance? Checking for rats?
3.36 p.m. A C train arrives. A woman in her 30s has her arms around her son. They both are wearing long sleeved yellow shirts and blue jeans.
There is How I Met Your Mother ad all over a subway cart.
3.41 p.m. I am waiting for an Uptown D train145th Street. It feels very humid. The same lady with Victoria Secret bag is now sitting on the station next to me. She is applying lotion on her feet.
A Latino woman in a pink top, blue jeans, and black sweater is seated with a stroller with a toddler by her side. He holds a bag of potato chips in his hand; he keeps his other hand in his mouth.
3.48 p.m. Still no train.
A tall, skinny black man wearing sun glasses walks by. The station becomes louder as people are getting off an Uptown B train.
3.51 p.m. D train has arrived.
A man in a gray shirt and black jeans stands by the doors blocking the entrance. Once the doors open he doesn’t move. Everyone has to walk around him. Nobody seems to mind; this man has a mean face.
3.58 p.m. 161st Street, Yankee Stadium. The 4 train platform is outside. It is nice and chilly. Nice contrast to a hot and humid train. A man in sweat pants, white T-shirt and white sneakers leans on a garbage can. He holds a Yankee’s baseball hat.
4.01 p.m. A 4 train arrives. Two teenage boys are sitting next to each other, trying to solve some math problems.
4.15 p.m. I am waiting for a 6 at 86th Street. A train arrives in seven minutes. There are two women wearing rain boots. One is eating an apple. I was 25 minutes late for class. I will never consult Google again.
October 15, 2010
5.28 – 5.47 p.m.
1 train, 157th street to 59th Street, Columbus Circle.
Two men asleep on a train. One rests in the middle of the car with his head back. He has a white mustache and a little white goatee. He is wearing gray jeans, a shirt with red and white horizontal stripes, black sneakers and a Met’s baseball hat. He is hugging a gym bag.
The other sleeps in a corner, his hgead resting on his chest, hands in the pockets of a gray hoodie. A big black bag that looks like a laundry bag is in front of him.
After 125th Street I see a woman dressed in black; she is taking notes in her steno. She might be writing down that a woman dressed in jeans, black boots and a leather jacket is taking notes in her steno.
At 72d Street four teenage girls walk in. The subway car becomes very loud.
Trip to Work
October 16, 7.28 – 7.48 p.m.
No. 1 train from 157th Street to 59th Street, Columbus Circle.
A woman rests her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder. He is wearing blue jeans, a green shirt, a brown leather jacket, and light brown cowboy boots. She is wearing a black coat and purple boots up to her knees. They converse in Spanish. At 145th Street, a middle age woman wrapped in what looks like an orange bedspread enters the car. A blonde hair woman carrying a package from Post Office walks in at 110th street. A teenage boy gets on at 96th street with a violin case over his shoulder. A young Latino man is sitting down with a big bouquet of flowers in his hand.
It’s Saturday night.
October 20, 4.45 – 5.10 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to 66th Street.
A woman sits next to her four year old daughter. A girl is eating two lollipops at once. One is dark purple, another one is dark red.
Another woman is sitting with a six year old boy and a 4 year old girl on her right. The girl starts hitting her brother because he was leaning on her mom. She gets up and squeezes herself between her brother and the mother.
A man with dreads decorated with blue and red hairclips sat across the family. The girl starts yelling, “He has a pony hair. He has a pony hair!”
Trip to School.
3.33 – 3.51 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to 66thStreet.
A young man dressed all in black with a black backpack is playing on his phone.
A copy of the New York Post laying on an empty seat. A woman in her 20s, wearing a brown jacket, is sitting next to it. A tall middle aged woman gets on at 137th Street, makes a sign to the woman in brown jacket to slide. The young woman puts the Post on the floor and moves to the next seat.
An older woman is wearing a big furry hat, a brown coat, dress black pants; she is carrying a black back pack. She takes out a copy of the New York Times from her back pack and reads.
Trip to School
November 30, 3.40 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to 66th Street
An elder woman is yelling at a crying granddaughter, “What are you crying for?” The girl doesn’t respond. “Do you have any reason to cry?” asks the grandma. Her other granddaughter sits besides them eating a Hershey’s white chocolate bar. The woman asks her for a piece. The girl generously gives a few pieces; the grandmother raises her voice: She just wanted one little piece. Then she tells the girl to wrap up a candy and eat it when they get off the train.
A couple gets on at 135th street. Once they sit down, the woman turns to the man and leans forward. She speaks to him really fast and periodically giggles. The man expresses no emotions, looking away, while she is talking.
A man wearing sunglasses gets on at 79th street. He sits down at the corner, drops his head back, and falls asleep.
3.58 p.m. I arrive at 66th street station. I walk out the subway and see the cross-town M66 bus stopped at a light at 65th and Broadway. I run, making it on time to board. I am out of breath. I should exercise more. I don’t exercise at all.
Trip to the West Village
December 8, 6.20 – 6.52 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to Christopher Street.
A man wearing dress pants, a brown sweater with a black jacket over it, is walking nervously from the middle to the end of the platform. He is overweight and has two scarves – one red, the other brown — around his neck.
A train arrives within a minute.
A man in his late 30s is reading a book. A white gym bag rests on his knees; a lunch bag is by his side and a gift box with Johnny Walker Blue under his seat. As the train pulls out the tunnel, he yells, “Hey man” in his cellphone. Then he says in a much calmer voice, “I am on a train,” and after a pause he says, “Okay.”
A man walks in at 116th street. He has a baby attached to his back. He is wearing a heavy green jacket with a lot of pockets. A gray haired man wearing a long dark green coat gets on at 103d street. He has two computer keyboards sticking out of his gym bag.
Two young women get on at 59th Street, Columbus Circle. One is wearing a beige coat and talks loudly about her boyfriend: He texted her Tuesday and wanted to come over. He said he would call her back after he had had few drinks with co-workers, but he never did. The woman says it was the last straw. Then she admits that she called him this morning. She tells her friend that he said that he was the one waiting by the phone. Maybe, it wasn’t the last straw after all. Another woman is very disapproving of the boyfriend. Just before 42d Street, the woman in the beige coat notices everyone has been listening to her story. They get off at the next stop.
At 23d Street, a young man gets on holding about 8 shirts from dry cleaners. He is wearing sweat pants and a hoodie. He gets off the at 14th Street.
Trip to Chelsea
2.48 – 3.2 6 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to 23d Street.
Most of the seats are taken. A tall young man is sitting down with a yoga mat between his legs. He holds a big white envelop and a bottle with a prescription drugs in one hand and plays with his Iphone with another hand.
A young man sitting next to him is sleeping. He is wearing a black winter coat with a Nike logo on it, blue jeans and a black hat. He has headphones in his ears and a gym bag underneath his seat. At 79th Street he wakes up, yawns, drops his head back down, and falls asleep again.
Around 42d Street, Times Square, a tall young man in a long gray coat starts a conversation with a stranger who is sitting two seats away from him. “There is no reason for two people wearing matching hats. If they are a couple, it is not cool. If they are friends, it is not cool. If they are strangers, it is just weird!” A man laughs, then says, “What if they are on the same team?” They both laugh.
1.28 – 1.47 p.m.
No. 1 train, 157th Street to 66th Street.
An Asian man in his 50s, wearing a beige jacket, black dress pants up to his ankle, white socks and black shoes, makes a popping noise with his mouth, disrupting my train of thought. A woman gets on at 79th Street carrying a Shih Tzu dressed in a little black sweater. A few straphangars speaking at once, “Oh, how cute!”
Alina Konon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org