Monday, March 31, 2008

Local or Express?

So Friday, I'm going to Philadelphia. My train is at 9:30, I leave my house at 8:47, cursing that I didn't leave at 8:45. My subway stop is a local, two stops down is the express. The whole trip from my apartment to Penn station at 34th street should take about a half hour. The last time I tried to go to Philadelphia, I changed to the express and got stuck in a tunnel for 20 minutes outside of the 50th Street local stop. That day, while watching local after local swoosh by our windows, I promised myself that from then on, I'd stay on the local. A moving train is better than no train, even if it's a slower train.

But the problem is that my nature as an American reveals itself in that I cannot resist that promise of a shorter journey. Cut two minutes off a train trip? Is that even a question? And here's the other thing: I love a long train trip! It's the best way to read The New Yorker. (When I graduated from college, I had an hour and a half commute from my apartment in Brooklyn to my job on the Upper West Side. I read Proust during those trips and didn't understand a word. About five years later I read How Proust Can Change Your Life. In it, Alain de Botton quotes Proust or his maid saying that Swann's Way was not written to be read between train stations. All I can say is it's a good thing Proust didn't write for The New Yorker.)

Whatever I'm reading, though, if an express train pulls in alongside my local, and I'm headed to an express stop, something bigger and stronger than my own free will picks me up by the scruff of the neck and shoves me off the local and onto the express. That's just what happened Friday. I found myself crossing the platform repeating to myself, "Lightning won't strike twice, lightning won't strike twice." Do I need to mention that I'm a nervous traveler and would always like to be at the train station a half an hour before boarding? Do I need to tell you that lightning did indeed strike again and that express train was stuck outside of 72nd street for what felt like forever but was in fact only five minutes? I stood there, in the packed, still subway car, shaking my head, disbelieving that lightning could indeed strike twice. And yet, did I switch back to the local at 72nd? No. Because once you're on the express, you don't go back.

In the end, I made it to Penn station in just the right amount of time to pick up my ticket and board the train (no time for coffee, though). I would go so far as to say my arrival was nearly perfectly timed, but if I did, I might anger the travel gods and I really don't want to do that. No. But I will say this: in the future, I will more fully embrace my local nature. I go local. That's just how it is.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever read the magazine Yoga + Joyful Living? Right before I saw this entry, I read an article in the latest issue titled "Crazy Busy," where the author starts out describing how impatient he got when he had to use a dial phone. He goes on to write about how we might try to slow down a bit. And then I read your blog! I think it's time for me to go local more often, too. Thanks.

Robin Aronson said...

Thanks, Lizi! It's true it's a little crazy how obsessed one (i/we) can get with the potential for's strange that faster is virtually synonymous with better when really, it's just faster