Subway Rider

city flower

When I moved back to New York last summer, I had just finished graduate school and had taken a job before I had even gotten my diploma. The job was on a farm. The farm was not in the city. And so. I had to figure out how to get there. Going by train was terribly beautiful. To get to where the farm is, the hulking MetroNorth hurtles along the Hudson River and on foggy days and blue-sky days alike, the ride is exquisite. Getting to soak in all of the early morning beauty came at a price, though. After spending an afternoon with a calculator, I realized it made better financial sense to drive. My fiance already owned a car that he’d allow me to usurp and since we’d just moved to Brooklyn wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, parking on the street and commuting fifty-minutes twice a day seemed totally doable. The ride was never that short. On one particularly unfortunate June night, it took me 3.5 hours to reach lower Manhattan.  By that point I was already late for dinner and so I parked my car on Varick Street and, still dressed in farm gear, ran the remaining four blocks to the restaurant where I was meeting friends. In this city, sometimes feet are faster than wheels. Eventually I started carpooling with friends and the drudgery of the commute became more tolerable. There was company and friends to share the burden---both psychic and financial---of the cost we'd all been paying separately at the gas pump. The honeymoon didn't last long. The novelty of the farm and the carpool soon wore off and although the reasons for deciding to go freelance were many, excising the drive from my daily schedule continues to be one of the most liberating things I've done in a long while.

Now that I’m mostly a city-girl, the subway is my typical mode of transport.  If the distance is short enough I still prefer a good walk to going underground, and when I’m feeling brave, I strap on my helmet and bicycle my way around,  but always, a trip on the subway gives me refreshing taste of freedom. I know that for some people, the opposite is true. For these folks, the subway and its close quarters and erratic schedule feels decidedly less free than simply hopping in a car and going where your heart desires. But the truth is, this isn’t the country. There aren't dusty roads with endless open miles. When I ride the subway I feel free because I don't need to fill a tank with gas and I can take comfort knowing that even though considerable amounts of fossil fuels are gulped to keep those trains running, they’re transporting more than five million other riders each day, too. When we talk about making an impact on the environment, most of us know it's our big-time habits that need to change. This doesn't mean I'm ready to start guzzling coffee from plastic cups just because it's not really the little things that matter, but it does mean that making a decision to limit my use of a car feels important. It’s a big thing.