New York is full of lots of things – garbage, concrete, restaurants, money, and humans.
New York is a weird place. Just really, really odd. It is a city that, much like my own mind, is constantly in flux. This is in stark contrast to my own home town, which hasn’t changed that much in the years since I moved away. I’ll be honest: I really, really miss it sometimes – and that is a hard emotion to come to terms with.
That’s not to say I regret the choice to move here – not at all! However, it is hard to live in a place where literally everything is just a little bit worse than what you think it will be. Let me give you an example: on the best possible day, grocery shopping is a tiring, but fulfilling, experience. On the worst day, subways are delayed on the way home, the store is full of people and when you’ve finally gotten to the bottom floor of the Target where the food is, a pipe burst or something and some dude on a zamboni-looking cleaning machine is sucking up a half-inch of brown water off the floor. This has actually happened to me.
But remember! It is a city in flux!
I consider my commute to be “boring,” but it is much evolved from the summer I lived in Minneapolis and grew accustomed to the stop-and-go rush hour traffic on I-35. Riding a packed subway car is an incredibly isolating experience. Speech is uncommon; communication is restricted to head nods and glances. In really busy times, a more cutthroat attitude is required: similar to the traffic-weaving skills required when driving, but more personal since you might be weaving between real people instead of faceless cars. This commute is “boring” now because it is routine, and sometimes it gets me down because I miss the physical isolation of leaving work with the windows down and turning on the radio to ready, get set, and wait – instead of the mental, stranger-in-a-crowd isolation of the subway.
This touches on a central characteristic of New York: the sheer amount of people around you at any given time. It’s never really predictable. I grew up around pretty much one kind of person but here there are thousands. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. I love imagining stories for people – I mean, it’s hard to be afraid of anyone you’re not sure about when you remember that they were a kid once too. Maybe they really liked toy trucks. Or maybe they really looked up their brother. Or maybe they dreamed about coming to New York all their life – or coming to the United States at all. And they did it.
About once a week I try to take the bus instead of the subway. It reminds me of a number of things – riding a public bus for the first time with my dad in Chicago, or riding to university in the mornings come to mind. But, it mostly reminds me that I live in a city that is bigger than its subway cars, and that for every person who shoves and jabs their way down the stairs, there is a another giving up their seat for an elderly or disabled person.