Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reflections on the Past

I am procrastinating by reading some writing from my past.  I found this post from my MySpace blog (now defunct), and it's made me realize how much I've grown since my first semester on the tenure track.  I still think the mothers that I describe mothers should have been sitting with the children, rather than commandeering all of those empty seats on a crowded train.  I have a little more patience with the kids' behavior, however.  Now I am also, officially, a comfortable NYC commuter.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Commuting on Sept. 11

I'm still wrapping my mind around being a NYC commuter.

The trains are crowded, something I didn't really expect, thus making my work on the train less productive than I'd hoped.  Last week I took one of the only open seats, which happened to be with a group of children (5 in all) and their two adult chaperones.  The children had flipped one of the three-seats to make a six-seat block for themselves, and they also commandeered a two-seater across the aisle.  The two adult chaperones sat together in another two-seater, blissfully ignoring the fact that the train was filling to capacity, and their party of 7 had taken over ten seats -- and that the children had free reign of the aisle as well as those seats.

I joined another woman who had ventured into "their" (meaning the kids) domain by sitting on the aisle of the 6-seater.  The cherubs, who could not sit still for the hour ride, crawled over my legs no less than six times before I rolled my eyes.  (I thought I was doing pretty well not to show any exasperation.  Remember, it's a morning train into NYC on a weekday.)  Apparently, one of the two mothers happened to look at me at that moment (after blissfully ignoring what was happening for the better part of half an hour), and decided that it was MY fault for sitting there.  In a voice loud enough for me to hear (but not loud enough for me to bother countering), she said:

"Well, why did she sit with children?  She is making me angry."

I was making her angry?  Get real.

I wanted to respond to her:  "Well, why don't you teach your children how to sit quietly on a public train."  Or better yet, "Well, why didn't you sit with your children and entertain them rather than letting them roam freely in the back of the train?  Can you not see that this train is full?"

A side note, all of these children were school-aged.  They should know how to sit quietly in one seat for an hour.

So I'm still wrapping my mind around the two-hour commute to my new job, trying to see it as a new way of life rather than a waste of time (as my multitasking brain is prone to do).  I'm trying to see this time as an opportunity to do nothing - something I've never been very good at.  I'm getting there with this new mindset.

I'm still wrapping my mind around being a NYC commuter.

And today is September 11.

It is the five year anniversary, a beautiful, cloudless, blue-sky day.  And my train is stopped just beyond Newark Penn Station.  No trains are going in or out as we await "police activity" and an evacuation at the terminal ahead.  To my right out the window I can see lower Manhattan - without the twin towers, but I can see them in my mind.  It is 8:30, 8:40, 8:45, and I stare into the space that is now a vacuum in all of our minds.  I see the plane flying low across the city.  My mind imposes the towers and I see the "first plane hit."  We still are not moving.

I call my mom so she doesn't worry, just in case this is another national emergency and I lose my cell phone connection like we all did 5 years ago in the greater NY area.  Of course, just calling makes her worry more.  She is very attuned to the fact that I am now a NYC commuter.  My stomach clenches, and I notice fear in people's eyes on the train.  None of us really wonder what is happening because none of us really wants to know.  My iPod blares the song "Waiting on the World to Change" and I wonder when it will.

Eventually the situation at NY Penn Station is resolved and we move again.  My stomach does not release its vice grip on me.  It's 9:03 when I step off the train onto the platform, where the sign above me announces in blood red letters, "September 11."  The thought crosses my mind - what would I have been doing if it were five years ago, and I were a NYC commuter.  For the first time, I am apprehensive in my new role.

And I am still wrapping my mind around what it means to be a NYC commuter.

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