I don’t know if you can teach an old dog new tricks but I do know that as a woman of a certain age I am still capable of learning new things. The last few months have proven that to be true. My approach to learning something new is not necessarily the way the younger set would learn or do it but if the result is the same what does it matter. If I need a paper map to get a sense of the area, then buy a paper map. Barnes ‘n Noble still sells them.
My move to NYC
forced caused me to learn to use mass transit. I have ridden the Underground in London, the light rail is Seattle, the trains and subway in Japan, the Metro in DC but the prospect of using the NYC subway system terrified me. Mostly because I don’t understand how it works and on cop shows someone is always pushed in front of a train.
In my teens and young adult years, travel into Manhattan from Bergen County, NJ was via the Shortline Bus to The Port Authority then walk or catch the 8th Avenue bus uptown to dance class. The use of the subway was forbidden by my parents, my Dad insisted “NO SUBWAY!” which looking back was the right call because the subways of the 1970’s were an entirely different beast than today. As an adult, the easiest way from Orange County to Manhattan was to drive so that is what I did for years. Now living in Brooklyn it was time to put my big girl pants on and do this.
Back in the early fall after a day with city friends, they decided I needed to do an escorted ride on the subway as a way to get back to my car. Actually I was going to walk the many blocks but “they” said
“if you are moving here you have to learn the trains.”
“No!?! Really, I can walk. I don’t have a metro card.”
“I have an extra and J is going the same direction.”
Oh, no, this is happening. J is a true New Yorker so she realized the train we needed was at the platform and started walking faster and faster. I struggled to keep up. She got to the train as the door was closing and pushed it open like some kind of superhero. “Come on. Get in.” Being crushed by the door is a fear of mine but I said a little prayer and dove in. Even in your 60’s peer pressure can be a positive motivator. J reminded me she was getting off at the next stop and I should go one more stop and get off.
“Just get your bearings when you get to the street so you don’t walk in the wrong direction.”
Alrighty, then. I made it to my car. Drove home. Later emailed friends to let them know I appreciated the test run. Okay, all of that was just a little background information to set up my learning mass transit story.
Fast forward a few weeks and it is now the time to do this! My daughter instructed me to use the map app on my phone for directions. She added me to Find Friends. I think she wasn’t sure Mom can do this. I read and reread the directions because I didn’t want to look at the them on the train. Don’t want to look like a newbe. By the way most people are looking at their phones while on the train. I had my metro card. Of course I didn’t swipe it fast enough so I couldn’t get through the turnstile. Calm down and do it again. Once on the platform I stood with my back to the wall acting like a confident New Yorker. Oh, my! What was I thinking? Breathe. The train arrived I got on, I got off. It was all good. I was proud of myself. Slowly over the next few days/weeks I learned a few things:
- The platform you get off the train isn’t the one you will get back on the train. I know that should be obvious but it was an aha moment for me.
- The subway system is actually well marked. Reading the signs is helpful, really helpful.
- UP in a subway elevator means Upper Platform not up.
- I don’t like platforms that have trains coming on both sides because there is no wall to stand against. There is usually a beam, bench or garbage can that can be a substitute wall.
- If I get on the wrong train, I can get off at the next stop and find the right train. I won’t be stuck riding it forever like Charlie in that M.T.A. song from when I was a kid. Anyway, he was in Boston not New York.
- There are some interesting people so I need to be aware not afraid. Well maybe a little afraid.
- People will offer me a seat which does make me feel old but grateful.
- If I follow the directions, it isn’t that hard to add money to a metro card or even get a new one.
- Those subway system apps are very useful.
- When the guy announces “mind the gap as you exit” I won’t need to do a grand jete to make it across, hopefully just a bigger step and a little prayer will suffice.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” CS Lewis
What new thing would you like to conquer? I would love to know.
Take care. Be well. Serve others.
FYI: I haven’t seened an empty train. There is usually lots of people. All kinds of people which makes it a great experience. I love people watching.