That got me thinking about New York. As I glanced out at the falling snow, I longed for the days when I didn’t have to worry about snowy roads because I could travel underground on the subway.
My introduction to the subway was somewhat unique. When I was 13, I won a scholarship to a prestigious high school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I lived in Brooklyn, so the only way to get to school was to take the subway. Every day during rush hour. At 13, I was still scrawny and short and shy as hell, so the thought of this daily commute was a major cause of anxiety for me.
No one else from my grammar school had gotten into Regis, so I had no classmates to join me on my journey. Thankfully, my Dad took the subway into Manhattan for work and volunteered to accompany me on the first leg of my journey. The thing was, he worked down by Wall St, and Regis was on East 84th St.
That meant that I was going to be on my own for a majority of the trip. During rush hour. On the subway. Which was so scary. And packed with strangers. And rats. And muggers.
Needless to say, on that first day, this pre-Modern Philosopher was more than a little frightened out of his mind. I wished that I’d just gone to the local high school with all my grammar school buddies. What was I trying to prove? Did I think I was some hoity-toity Upper East Side rich kid who was too good for Brooklyn?
I’ve never been good with change, and this was a huge one. After seven years of grammar school with the very same classmates, I would be spending the next four years in a different borough with students from all over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
When my Dad said goodbye to me that morning at his stop, it took everything I had to hold back the tears and not beg him to take me home.
You know what, Modern Philosophers? Not only did I make it to school alive, but I also met several other freshmen who were from grammar schools in my part of Brooklyn. We made a plan to meet the next morning so we could all travel together.
The even better news? There were girls from their old schools who also took the subway to Manhattan. Girls! They would be trapped in the subway car with me for the morning commute! They’d have to talk to me. I could finally get over that fear, too!
Before long, taking the subway became second nature. I knew where to stand so the door would open right in front of me, which train to catch to ensure getting a seat for the morning commute, where to switch trains to maximize meeting up with cute girls, and where the secret movie was hidden in the tunnels just after the Dekalb Ave. station (that’s an image of the movie to the left).
Having to take the subway to high school terrified me that very first day, but I am so glad that the situation was thrust upon me. Going to school on the Upper East Side, having Central Park right there for gym class, all those museums being just a few blocks away, and meeting a whole new group of people broadened my horizons.
It also prepared me for life away from home. The subway commute was the beginning of my journey to independence. Okay, so I might not have figured out how to talk to girls until I went to NYU, but looking back now, it was a change I so badly needed, and I miss the subway for the sense of freedom it brought to my life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down Memory Lane. Unfortunately, there’s a train broken down ahead of us, so we’re going to be stuck here for a while. And the air conditioning just went out, and I think…yep…there go the lights, too.
Thank you for riding the NYC Subway…