Jul 10, 2010

Biden Time

this originally appeared on nycmomsblog on May 1, 2009

Yesterday morning on the Today Show, Joe Biden said that he would recommend that his own family members stay away from travelling in confined spaces, in light of the whole swine flu thing. Planes and subways, more specifically. I wonder how his friends at Amtrak are taking this?

I watched several minutes of talking heads chatter on about whether or not this was alarmist, and predict a strong message from the White House to follow--and then I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the G train.

I could hear it rumbling underneath the sidewalk as I approached the station, and made a valiant effort to catch the Brooklyn bound train, but the doors closed before I could reach it, so I made my way to the rear staircase, where I could position myself to catch the next train, no matter which direction it was headed.

I got a nice seat on the north-bound G train, and settled in with my New Yorker magazine.

I love the subway. I've invented it many times. If only there were some vehicle that could scoot along, disobeying normal traffic signals, I'd think at times, with my arm outstretched hoping to hail a cab, my brain desperate to cough up some alternative to this waiting game--which could get emotional with the addition of other people looking for cabs. Then I'd realize that this imagined vehicle wouldn't necessarily know that I was waiting on the corner of, say, Houston and 6th Avenue. So I'd decided that this invented idea could just have designated stops along different routes. I'd be happy to walk a few blocks in either direction, I'd think, looking up and down 6th Avenue. Then of course I'd realize that this magical machine already existed, and in that particular area it was the C or the E train, and I could grab it simply by walking north to West 4th street, or south to Spring.

Of course we all know the ups and downs of the subway--we've all encountered the dreaded 'sick passenger' which can be code, it seems, for 'they're scraping someone off the tracks up ahead.' We've all had trains stall, run late, and be miserably hot and crowded with unpleasantness. But for me, in my life, the ups are just so great that I remain a huge devotee. What? I can read for 45 minutes, with little interruption and someone else will get me pretty close to where I work? No parking spots, no hassle? Checking my logical mind at the door and curling up with a great magazine on the way to and from work each day is an enormous benefit. No parking spots to search for, no cab to squabble over. When I moved to New York twenty years ago the bus was gently considered to be the 'classier' of the mass transit options--picture grandmothers with fun hats above ground, angry people below. Now the bus is a catastrophe of cell-phone users, angry people shouting into cell phones, angry people angry at people using cell phones, no chance to tune out and read and the subway is full of interesting people reading interesting books.

After fifteen solid minutes of reading, I switched to the Manhattan-bound L, which requires a bit of walking underground. The L train rumbled in just in time, and was very very crowded. I reached for a pole with my left hand and made a mental note to scratch all itches with my right. Joe Biden's warning flashed through my mind as I stood shoulder to shoulder with dozens of travellers. But what was I going to do? We only have one car, and my husband had taken it to work out in Long Island.

We jostled along to Union Square where I switched to the uptown express--4 or 5, I can't remember which one. I got a seat on that one and resumed my reading.

After my appointments I took the 3 to the F to pick the kids up from school, and then we all took the G back home. Later that night I took the G to the C to the F to get to a party at the Plaza, then I took the F to the A to the G back home. I sneezed a few times and a woman glared at me, but it was just the ticklish nose type of sneezing so she needn't have worried.

Twelve subway rides in one day, might even be a record for me.

I've always been a pretty relaxed parent when it comes to disease and disasters. I'm full of fears and worries for my kids, but without fail those are all limited to the social and emotional aspects of their lives. I guess I feel like everything else is just either going to happen or not. Yes, you could accuse me of waiting too long to call the pediatrician in certain cases, but in many many others my lack of anxiety has served my family members well.

So we just wash our hands when we get home and soldier on. On the subway mostly, and in a few weeks, we fly again.

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