Subway musing

So I’ve taking a temp job for a couple of months at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, which is in the Upper West Side at 168th Street. I live in Brooklyn. So that’s about 2 hours, everyday, on the subway.

Remind me, the next time I take a job, to stay below 42nd Street.

An interesting observation, however: after 59th Street, the car becomes relatively empty and I find that I literally start thinking again. Before, when the cars are crowded, I can listen to music or drink coffee and stare into space, or read the advertisements over and over again, but as for real thought and concentration… it just doesn’t happen. After the car emptied out a decent amount, it was like a light switch went on in my brain and I started thinking creatively about one of my theatre projects (the ambitious, multi-episode, multi-authored epic Tales of the Frumush, Series 1).

I wonder how I might get beyond this interesting limitation, especially since for half my ride, both to and from work, I am in rather crowded, quite loud NYC subway cars. Any ideas on how I can use my time. Oh, and before you say read, I’ve tried that already and find that reading from a book (at least a hardcover, I guess I haven’t tried paperbacks) hurts my back and shoulders.

I would like to make my commute at least somewhat productive and if you have any thoughts on how, I would love to hear them. Thanks.

On this day..

3 thoughts on “Subway musing

  1. I like to eavesdrop on other people. sometimes carry a tiny notepad and jot down the most interesting bits.

    love the blog title. found you via my pal Rey.

  2. Belledame has a good idea…you arty-types are supposed to be observing people and getting good material.

    I have the same problem…well, my commute isn’t quite as long, but it IS hard to concentrate on anythng except the asshole at the other end of the car who wants everyone to know that he or she is getting reception on the cell in the tunnels. Then there is the couple chatting too loudly about work stuff to impress everyone–the problem with them is one talks at the appropriate level, so, like the asshole with the cell, you’re still only getting 1/2 the conversation.

    OK, this doesn’t help you.

    I usually read. I have been on a crosswrod kick for about 2 weeks now, so I do the morning crossword on the way to work and read on the way home. I read both paperback and hardcovers. I don’t usually have a problem with neck or back, but with my wrists (I tend to hold the book at the bottom in the center–with thumb on the inside of hte spine and the spine between first and second finger)…this is more so with thicker hardcovers (that’s the problem with non-fiction).

    Is the train empty when you get on in the morning in Brooklyn? If so, get a seat as close to the end of the car as possible (I can’t remember if NYC subways have seats that face forwards and back, or just the sideways ones. I know that the Tube trains have space to stand at the ends of the cars.). Then just be a dick and don’t offer your seat to the old, feable, retarded, or pregnant. This will give you a bit of a buffer, and you should be able to tune them out a little better.

    Hope that helps.

    Oh, do we get to hear more about this theatre project?

  3. Belledame – I had started carrying a small notebook with me everywhere I went, for notes and random thoughts, but haven’t been diligent about keeping it handy on the train… I will definitely give your suggestion a go next week.

    Jo Cose – Actually, the train is really full in the morning, then, about halfway through the commute it empties out… that’s when my brain literally switchs back on. It feels almost physiological: when the overcrowded press of strangers diminishes, my mind stops expending energy creating psychic defences and allows itself to “breathe.” Maybe I’ll stay away from the thick biographies I’ve been trying to read and go with either a paperback or my pda.

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