Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the train

When I first moved to New York I rode a bus to work. I loved riding the bus because you could look out the window. It seemed more real life. This left the majority of my train riding for fun stuff. Dave and I would ride the train on the weekends to get to museums and stores and new neighborhoods to explore. The train was associated with a fun outing.

Then we moved and I began commuting to work on the train. The train during commuting hours has a much different feel than during social hours. During social hours there are groups of people riding the train. During the commute there are masses of individuals. No one talks. No one looks at anyone else. It feels sterile. It doesn't feel human. It is so strange to be smooshed with so many other people while trying desperately to act like you are not. There is a game that commuters play called "No eye contact". Well, that's what I want to call it. The game is, where on the train can you look without looking someone else in the eye? It is against train culture to look someone else in the eye. Well, in passing is fine, but on the long ride you need a place a look and if you don't have something to read, it can be tricky. Because there are lots of eyes. I think all this mounts up to: privacy. I think that commuters smooshed together on the subway try to be respectful of each other by trying to give each other privacy. You cannot give them space, because there is no space to give, but you can at least not look at them which gives them a different kind of space.

This morning I took the train and I noticed something new. The neighborhood we live in now is way out in Brooklyn. It is the second to last stop on one of the lines, which means, it is fairly far out. I am loving this neighborhood more and more. It is old. The families that live here are established. It is the kind of neighborhood that is bustling with walkers on Christmas Day because everyone is heading over to Aunt Sally's for dinner. I have found that unusual for New York. In my other neighborhood experiences, there is no one out on Christmas Day because everyone went "home" for Christmas. 'Home' being Iowa, or Long Island, or Japan, or, in some cases, Vermont.

Anyway, one unexpected perk to living in such an established neighborhood was the friendly morning commute. I got on the train right after 8, along with everyone else. And, everyone knew someone. Some people bumped into each other on the train. There were conversations on all sides of me. In Chinese, Polish, and English. There was all kinds of eye contact. I sat there wide-eyed. What is going on? No one should be talking! This is the morning commute! But why shouldn't they? They are friends and neighbors and have known each other for years. They have stories to share and things to catch up on.

The closer we got the Manhattan the more the crowd shifted. People changed trains. The crowd was less of the 'regulars' and became that New York commuter feel. The eye contact and privacy laws were reestablished. The car grew silent.

Anyway, all this to say, that if we are to stay in New York for a while...which, well, I think might be safe to assume, then I think we are in the right neighborhood. I find it comforting to live among people that pretty much know each other, even though I don't know many of them yet.

And I love my current morning commute. A trip to the kitchen for tea and then into the living room for diaper changes, legos, online work and silly Andrew chatter.


Firefly said...

You are, like, totally the comment queen--you NEVER have zero comments.


Cute book you made. And I am so happy to hear you like your neighborhood.

Seeking La Loba said...

This morning I met a neighbor of mine walking out the door. For the last month, we've met on Tuesday morning 3 times. We have the same Tuesday schedule and we both take the bus to the express train. So we've started having these 20 minute conversations on these mornings. It's such an unexpected delighted. He's an Indian man, probably in his 50s. He is a very kind and gentle man and we chat easily about our families, work, and our cross-cultural experiences. I love it.
Three cheers for the outer boroughs. :) Just like we read about in Mama Day, right Firefly?