Right into it:
The commute: This is the big one. You tell some people you have a 50-minute train ride every day and they’ll fill you up with crap like, “oh, but that’s your time to unwind, just relax, read a book or something, and you’ll get used to it.”
No. Incorrect. My commuting time is absolutely not my own. It belongs to the lady who eats broccoli on the morning train that smells up the whole car, and to the huge guy who crams himself into the middle seat on the ride home then splays his elbows so I have to do all my reading and unwinding with my gut spilling over the armrest.
If that time — and it’s about an hour and ten minutes, door to door — were my own I could be doing so many more awesome things, like watching TV or playing the guitar or even reading and actually unwinding in the comfort of my La-Z-Boy.
Besides that, you learn to live your life on Metro-North’s schedule. If you don’t leave the house by 8:09, you can forget about that 8:16 train. Leave before 8:07 and you can stop in the deli for coffee. Make it to the first crosswalk before you see the train and you know you’ll catch it. Make it to the second crosswalk and you know you won’t have to run. Stand near the back of the train so you can exit at Grand Central North. Stand about three cars from the front on the way back so you can get off by the stairs.
There’s some grotesque pleasure in mastering the commute, but it’s the most pathetic of accomplishments.
Oh and two more things: 1) You see the same people literally every single day on the train platform, and hardly anyone ever acknowledges anybody. It’s bizarre. I mean, let’s forget about learning each other’s names because we all know we’re not planning on sitting next to each other and chatting for the whole commute. But we’re not even going to smile and nod? I see you every day!
(I should note that I say what’s up to Mike from Trainjotting when I run into him, and there’s one lady that smiles or says hello. But there are like 10 other people that I see all the time who make no effort at all.)
Oh, yeah, 2) If you’re doing something in the city, you can’t just go home. If you’re willing to pay for a cab, you can get a ride to Grand Central, then you have to sit there and wait 20 minutes like a goon until the next train to your station is leaving. I know I sound whiny right now, and I get that compared to the way people traveled for most of civilization the Metro-North is pretty damn impressive. But once you get used to living on a subway line it’s just hard to see it that way.
The car: I know I said I liked driving, and I do. I don’t like that I need to get in the car to go pretty much anywhere. You leave your house, you go right to the car. Almost always. There’s a deli and a pizzeria within walking distance, which is useful for the times my wife needs to leave me without the car. And I can walk to the train in the morning, and I guess if I wanted to figure it out I could take the train to get to stuff within walking distance of the other stops on the line.
But other than that, you need the car for getting anywhere you’re going to go. The car becomes this weird exoskeleton, something attached to you practically any time you’re more than a half mile from your home. Oh, and for some reason Westchester’s variety of tough guys love to speed through parking garages.
Stuff I need to deal with: Man, the suburbs come with a lot of stuff you need to deal with. When it snows in the city, you have to deal with stepping over the gross slushy gravy that forms at every corner. But when it snows in the suburbs, you need to endure an intense 45-minute cardio workout before you can even leave your house.
And there’s the lawn, and the heating oil, and the car needing oil change, a bunch of stuff like that. I know, I know: Not real problems. I should be happy I have heat. But I’m spoiled by years of pampered urban living.
Soon, on to the good and bad things about the city.