Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Running full-speed in subways, and other pointless things

I don't understand people who run during rush hour to make it to a subway car so crowded that there's no way in hell they will fit inside. Or even if they can fit inside, at the very least it will be an incredibly unpleasant experience.  There is nothing at all pleasant about being crammed in so close with your fellow New Yorkers that you have to stand perfectly still, lest you risk having someone's hair brush your hand or their leg brush your leg or, so much worse, their breath aimed directly at your face. And trust me, at 8:15 in the morning, it ain't good.

And yet every morning, I see people run to a train car that is very clearly packed to the brim. And these people aren't, like, walking swiftly. They are running, running, running. I always wonder why New Yorkers do this. In their brains, are they thinking, "If I don't get on this exact train at this exact moment, I will be late for work!"? If so, then that's 1) flawed thinking, because during rush hour the next train will arrive - guaranteed, at least on the 4/5 and 6 lines - in approximately 90 seconds, and 2) a case of seriously fucked priorities, if they're truly concerned about getting to work 90 seconds later than they planned. (Because I think few people would consider arriving at 9:01:30 to be "late" for a scheduled arrival of 9.) Or perhaps they're running without thinking about why they're running. I think this latter option is a lot more likely, for the following reasons.

Manhattan is a city filled with people trying to accomplish as much as possible as fast as possible, usually at the expense of all logic and well-being and pretty much everything else. They work as much as possible, to make as much money as possible, to rent as nice an apartment as possible (note: I would say as "big" an apartment as possible, but let's not kid ourselves) in as nice a neighborhood as possible, just so they can spend as little time as possible in said apartment. And they spend a lot of time figuring out how to maximize the use of their, um, time; they ask themselves, What would be more worthy of my time tonight, getting drinks with a friend I haven't seen in a long time, going to a book release event with someone I see all the time or working late to finish this project so I can leave early on Friday to go to a sample sale with my co-worker*? It might sound like a long and complicated thought process, but over time, as one gets used to life in Manhattan, all this stuff becomes first nature and takes place in a split second; one synapse fires against another, and - poof - decision made.

This is how New Yorkers - myself definitely included at times- live out their lives. So why would they act any differently during their morning commute? People run for packed trains not because they've thought it through, but because it's now their default mode of existence; they're so used to doing something 100% of the time - and using aforementioned deductive system to make sure that something is worth something - that it gives them anxiety to miss the train when they know that maybe, if they try hard enough, they can make it. They lurch forward at obnoxious speeds because, their brains instantly tell them instantly, there's simply nothing else for them to do.

I, however, do not run when I see a packed train surrounded by a crowd of people at the car doors, because I have decided that this - rushing around half mindless and half anxious - is not how I want to live my life. I walk at a normal speed, because in my brain I know I prefer being 90 seconds late to squeezing into a car so tightly that the only thing keeping me standing is the proximity of other standing bodies. I also know that, in the grand scheme of my life, being a minute and a half late to work does not matter. Some people might say this makes me wise, while others - likely including a lot of my city's co-inhabitants - would say it makes me (at worst) foolish and (at best) lazy. But quite frankly if anything is so serious that I can't be a maximum of two minutes late, then that is probably a thing I don't want to be involved in. Because it probably takes place inside a courthouse or a hospital or a funeral home.

And, contrary to popular belief, a packed New York City subway car is none of these things.

*The middle option is clearly the best one here. I get to see someone I like, I get free food and drinks and I get to network with people in the publishing world. Done, done and done. I, I and I.


  1. I totally feel you there! I am also guilty of being one of those runners! hahaha! God, I miss New York.

  2. I run down the escalators here in DC. When I first got here, I was disgusted to see people jogging up and down the left-hand sides of the escalators. It just looked like they were rushing to get to where they thought was ahead in life.

    But for me, it makes sense to run in the morning. You see, the stupid screen that shows the train at my station doesn't show trains that they think you'll miss if you take the usual 3-minute ride down the ridiculously massive escalator. So, I run/fall down the escalator in hopes of making one of these trains. Today the doors shut just as I arrived on my platform. I find it justified to run since sometimes I have to wait 9 minutes for the next train. Nine minutes could make me late for the bus at the other end. In the rain, that blows. Plus, my train is never packed since I go out of the city and against traffic in the morning.

  3. ..this is a world event except perhaps Taiwan.....I'm kidding they're just as bad there. Has it got worse over it linked to gloabl warming? I don't know but I do know it is sad and bad for your soul.

  4. Maybe they have that urge to run so that they can be the last one in to squeeze in? lol....It is kinda funny to see people make a mad rush.. rush to feel like a canned sardine...

  5. Feel the same anytime i visit Chicago and use the "el". But then again, since i don't use mass transit much here in the DFW area, maybe it's just seems so foreign to me. You know?

  6. It's exactly the same in London, there's a very funny stand up comedian actually called Michael McIntyre who creates a sketch involving the tube - very funny! :)

  7. Don't you just love the way others' minds work?

  8. I was just talking about the same thing yesterday! And you're absolutely right, New Yorkers smell the WORSE in the morning. There's a new topic on which to blog, why is that??