Morning Commute and Evening Commute

Last week, I did a day of proofreading in-house at UNICEF. I took the 9:26 train from Peekskill. The day was warm for January and bright, and I stood on the platform looking west across the Hudson River to Bear Mountain. The tracks run  beside the river from Albany to Manhattan, and the riverbank twists and curves so much at Peekskill that I can see my train coming down from Poughkeepsie several minutes before it gets to the station. It’s a wonderful way to start a day of work, waiting on the banks of the Hudson, watching the gulls, keeping an eye out for the eagles that nest nearby.

Commute Morning

After a day scrutinizing text, graphs, and tables related to funding meant to help children get through natural disasters and armed conflicts around the world, I raced from UNICEF to Grand Central with the hope of catching the 5:13. (The next train didn’t leave for Peekskill for a full 20 minutes! Imagine that.) West on 44th Street to Lexington, running to make the ‘Walk’ lights at Second and Third  Avenues so I wouldn’t have to stop on the sidewalk and give cars the right of way, into the darkish corridor beside the Graybar Building, flashing a glance at the Train Departures board to note that the 5:13 was at Gate 35 on the farthest corner of the station, then out of the passage into the wonderful open space of the station itself with its sky-blue ceiling high overhead marked with the constellations of the stars, its terrazzo floors, its famous clock anchoring the center of the space, and people everywhere running in all directions to make their evening trains. (You remember that scene in Broadcast News where Holly Hunter races to deliver the video? Multiply that by hundreds to get a sense of Grand Central at rush hour.)

Commute Evening

I’ve spent much of my time in Peekskill this past year, about 40 miles north of Manhattan, since my partner bought his apartment here. But I know I’m still a New Yorker when I navigate Grand Central at rush hour . . . and love it!

As I held my iPhone over my left shoulder and snapped the picture of my evening commute for this blog, I thought of the contrast with the morning’s picture. For the first time I wondered about how much energy it must take to move back and forth between these worlds, these rhythms.

What’s involved in internally shifting from contemplating the river outside the window of my moving train to running through the crowds and obstacles of the city? And what’s involved in being able to embrace both with joy and wonder?

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2 thoughts on “Morning Commute and Evening Commute

  1. Sounds like you are finding a lovely balance in your travels and getting the “best” of both worlds! I personally love going into the city (I drive) but find I become exhausted physically trying to keep up the pace of walking. Even pushing a stroller in the city is done at quite a clip!! But if I stay too long out in the country in my one-light town, I get wound down so low I am almost at stop. So I say…enjoy your travels back and forth!!

  2. A city planner I know informed me, as were strolling around Rockefeller Center, that we New Yorkers walk faster on our sidewalks than anyone else in the world–except for the residents of Tokyo. (This is stuff city planners need to know in order to make good designs for pedestrians.) I’m fascinated by that and think of it often as I watch “the natives” make their way around clusters of slow-moving tourists.

    It’s interesting what you say about getting wound down. Yes, New York City is all about energy. I see this as I introduce Bowen to city life. I’ve found myself saying to him that the people who know how to navigate the city have learned that it’s all about economy of energy–how to conserve it, where to expend it, and how to accurately estimate how much time it will take to get something done.

    And interesting that you speak of your “one-light town.” Something I’m also pondering as I’m reintroduced to suburban life after decades in Manhattan is the difference between a car culture and a pedestrian/mass transit one.

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