The Weakly Haul, by Elayne Riggs
Apologies to Van Jensen (now with correct surname spelling!) for sort-of swiping his title, but as I’m pretty weak after hauling my body back and forth this past few workdays, I thought it appropriate.
First off, it must be said, I love my new job. My primary boss is amusing, intelligent and nice, my coworkers are terrific and friendly, the salary is good and the benefits outstanding. In a few months my health insurance premiums will drop by hundreds of dollars as I transition from my old job’s bennies to the new one’s, and the PTO (Paid Time Off) allotment is more than generous. Between my job and Rob’s current and future assignments, we might even be able to afford to visit England again next year, and perhaps some more out-of-town conventions. I miss going to Heroes Con! (Heck, Mid-Ohio is even a possibility this year; I dare to dream!) So all is more than copacetic in the Riggs Residence now. Right?
Maybe it’s because I was raised Jewish, I don’t seem to be able to function without kvetching about something. And that something is, as I suspected it would be, my commute.
I haven’t had a commute for six months. For the three and a half years before that, ever since the spring of ’04 when my ex-boss bought that office building in Westchester County, I’d been driving to and from work, against traffic, mostly east in the mornings and west in the evenings. The sun being in my eyes was the only downside to this commute. I was on main streets most of the time, so inclement weather was rarely a problem (although when it was it was a doozy; I remember talking with my parents during a homeward-bound drive down I-95 in a particularly nasty snowstorm, grateful that I had them on the other end of the phone to calm me down in the near-zero visibility). And door to door it took me under half an hour; bliss!
That said, there’s stuff I definitely won’t miss about it. The parking lot at my old office was a nightmare. The construction crew on the Trump monstrosity adjacent to our building had dumped tons of cement dust and worse on everyone parked in that area. Then my ex-boss decided to install speed bumps that played havoc with any car no matter how slow they were going. Plus now, of course, gas prices are through the roof. I was delighted to get a job back in Manhattan where I could not only resume a semblance of a social life but drastically lower my carbon footprint.
But it must be said, it takes getting used to again. Last week I bought my first 30-day unlimited Metrocard, good on any subway or local bus — which encourages me to go into the city on weekends too, since I won’t be paying extra for that. And once again I can carry stuff to read; despite the car companies’ inane continued attempts at decreasing road safety through bringing you The Internet In Your Car!, I believe you shouldn’t be reading while driving. The most I’ll concede is a GPS, at which you can glance the same way you glance in the rear-view and side-view mirrors. But I think actual reading is best done in public transit, not private transit. I can’t wait to crack open my weekly comics purchases in a subway car crowded with kids!
Speaking of which, it was immensely satisfying become a regular in-store shopper at Midtown Comics again, to give Patrick my filled-in Previews order form for August (a couple weeks late but, as I explained to him, “as of the June 14 submission deadline I hadn’t yet been offered my job!”) and note that the busy Wednesday registers now feature two female employees (with plenty of women among the browsing customer base). After the next few weeks I won’t need to use my New Comic Book Releases list to figure out what I need or want, then email Patrick to make sure he pulls it for my folder. And I won’t have to wait any more for Midtown to ship anything to me. My goodness, could I actually become an “early-adopter” comics shopper again? Heck, now I can even visit the store when my friends have signings there! In fact, from now on I anticipate being able to go lots of places after work, including comics-related events. I can’t say enough about the NYC subway and bus system — once you get the hang of it, which I did a couple decades ago but keep having to refresh my memory as lines are renamed and rerouted, you can pretty much get anywhere very efficiently and very cheaply.
As much as I love the subways, I still need to bear in mind that rush-hour trains aren’t much fun. Herein lies my current dilemma: I can’t stand on my feet for very long without becoming seriously fatigued, then getting painful foot cramps. Hey, I’m 50, it comes with the territory. Now, I have no problem taking the subway into The City each morning. I live on a county border three local bus lines have their terminus points near me, and from there it’s a short trip to the nearest subway at or near its terminus. So in the mornings I’ll always get a seat on the local bus and almost always on the subway. The return trip’s a little trickier, though, as it is for anyone situated closer to Central Park than to Times Square. If I grab the subway above 42nd Street, there’s no way I’ll be able to sit. As I’m large, I usually require a corner seat, as it’s tough (and somewhat rude) to squeeze between two other commuters. End seats tend to be at a premium. So I can either grab a downtown train, change for the uptown at 42nd and cross my fingers, which is what I do on Midtown shopping days; or board at a closer stop to my office and be prepared to suck it up and stand for at least a half hour until the train somewhat empties (and much of the time it doesn’t). Either way, there’s still a usually-crowded local bus with which to contend. And I’m wiped when I finally arrive home.
Or, I can take the express bus back. It stops literally around the corner from my office building, its terminus is a half-block from my home, and there are always seats available. Nice, cushiony coach-type seats. With nobody sitting next to me. For only $5 more per ride (I was hoping to use my unlimited-ride Metrocard plus $3 off a regular Metrocard, but the MTA’s too smart for me there). And I don’t have to climb and descend staircases. And above-ground transit through Manhattan is really pretty. But it only operates every 20-30 minutes, and sometimes the trip home takes friggin’ forever. Last Friday I got the 3 o’clock express bus and, between the GW Bridge-bound traffic on the Deegan and the driver’s tendency to drive as slowly as humanly possible, I didn’t get home until 4:45 from what should have been an hour-long bus trip at best. (Just to prove it, the 6:10 express bus on Monday got me home by 7, and that was on a Yankee game day!) But that’s the thing; bus schedules tend to be less predictable than the sans-obstacles subways.
Every time I’ve taken the subway home this past week, I swear I’m henceforth going to take the express bus instead, and vice versa. In crappy weather the bus will probably win out because I’m loath to walk. Otherwise, I think it’s going to be the subway/local bus combo most of the time, with trips downtown after work to shop and such so I can catch the homeward-bound subway at Penn Station or Times Square and increase my chances of getting a seat. Heck, if I have dinner or errands to run or some event to attend in Manhattan the seating problem becomes a moot point with the trip being beyond rush hour. As of this point I’m still back-and-forth’ing my options. But one thing stands out: considering all the public transit options available to me in this wonderful city, it’s a pretty good dilemma to have!
Elayne Riggs blogs at Pen-Elayne on the Web and is almost looking forward to regularly dealing with subway-loving mariachi bands and religious wackos again. Almost.