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.
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