Thu 20 Mar 2008
I know my posts have been somewhat brief lately and I was about to write another rather lackluster sentence or two about how one of the things I love so much about Grand Central Terminal in New York City is that, no matter what time of day, there is always someone taking a picture of the ceiling, which is a totally valid and truthful statement, but I then I remembered that, Hey! I like blogging a lot! And I owe it to myself and all of you to really get back into it with some good, long posts.
But still, Grand Central’s ceiling is a good starting point.
It’s what I see every morning and evening on the days I commute to the city, and the reason someone is always taking a picture of it is that it’s seriously awesome, just like the rest of the train station (minus, you know, the perpetually long line for the bathroom). The station is huge and pretty and historic and makes you feel like the long train ride you just dealt with to get to work was really worth it.
The nice thing is, however, I’m kind of in love with the commuting experience in general, including the many charms of the Metro North Railroad.
If you read J’s Uncle Bobby’s blog, you know that Bobby, as a Metro North conductor, sees a lot of celebrities on the job. I have yet to see anyone famous on the train but, believe me, there is plenty of good people watching as it is.
The commuters, for the most part, are pretty well behaved. They’re amazingly quiet, lowering their voices to a near whisper when they need to talk on the cell phone (which is barely ever) and they are polite, smiling as they ask if the seat next to you is vacant. They drink coffee and read books and newspapers. They listen to their iPods. Every once in a while they exchange pleasantries about the weather or current events.
So the train, especially in the morning, tends to be this friendly, warm, coffee-smelling place where I often drift in and out of sleep as we rumble southward and, I know it sounds crazy, but I sometimes wouldn’t even mind if the trip lasted an extra ten minutes or so.
The ride back home in the evening is different, of course, less comfortable and relaxing, as the commuters are drained and anxious to get home. Instead of coffee, they drink beer. They play with their Blackberries. They sigh.
Still, though, I cannot deny that it’s a pleasant ride, especially now that we’ve turned the clocks forward and it’s light enough when I catch the 6:29 p.m. train that I get to check out some of the adorable Connecticut towns we pass through on the well-traveled route.
Perhaps the best thing about the ride is the forced opportunity to relax, because, honestly, what else are you going to do? Try as I might to do something “productive,” my train ride into the city a few times a week is undoubtedly an excellent time to listen to “This American Life” and “The Splendid Table” podcasts, to read my Italian murder mysteries and to slowly make my way through that week’s issue of “US Weekly,” which I’ve forced myself not to read until one of the days I commute.
So I relax. Sometimes I do nothing more than look out the window as the scenery changes from quaint, New England town to gritty city expanse in the morning, and back again at night. I sit and think, sometimes with an overpriced fruit smoothee I bought in the Grand Central food court, and I make the most of my alone time. Well, alone time that I share with many, many commuters, sitting shoulder to shoulder, as we make our way along the coast.