Published in the Long Island Advance
I’m now a commuter, and whatever made me think it would be a breeze, I can’t imagine. Prior to starting my new job, I had visions of spending my three hour per day train ride in a much more productive manner than I have been. Three hours is a long time to sit and do nothing. It’s tiring sitting on a train, and lately on my way home at night I’ve been feeling the need to nap.
The one nice thing about my morning commute has been that I’m sitting next to my daughter Erin on the 7:17 AM train each day. She’s been doing this for over a year now and has mastered all the finer nuances of being a daily commuter. I understand from her example that one does not talk on one’s cell phone early in the morning, nor carry on any kind of in-depth conversation or heated discussion when those around them have still not woken up yet, and relish silence on their morning ride. I find myself becoming annoyed with the realtor sitting ahead of me who is leaving message after message for people who have not yet arrived in their offices at 7:30 in the morning, and figure that she must not be a regular commuter, as regular commuters know the rules. And the same rules apply for the return trip, although there does seem some flexibility in the “conversation” factor. However, flexibility does not mean that it’s OK to spend an hour on your Nextel phone, having a walkie-talkie type conversation, with every sentence prefaced by that annoying beeping sound that the entire car of people can hear. IPod’s come in handy at times like these.
Sitting next to Erin has other perks as well. She holds my coffee while I open a breakfast bar to eat as a morning meal, and I return the favor as she sits, scraping all the extra butter off the roll she sometimes buys from the coffee truck that’s outside the train station every morning. You can’t do that if you’re sitting next to a stranger. She’s also taught me exactly when I want to get up from my seat in order to stand by the door, waiting to exit at the Jamaica train station. From her perspective this is important, as you need to make a quick getaway from the first train in order to get a seat on the second one. This is not really an issue for me, since I get off in Jamaica and take the subway to Woodhaven. Yet, it’s important information to know for those days when I do have to travel into Manhattan in the morning.
Erin and I have not lived together in a while, so seeing her five mornings a week has been lovely and she has eased the transition into my new world. I sometimes get lost in the transitions of my life, so sitting next to her each morning has meant a great deal to me. Oddly enough, we’ve been heading in the same direction, she, a few steps ahead of me, paving the way for her very grateful mother.
Next month I’ll be commuting without my daughter, who is finally moving closer to her job. I’m excited for her, knowing that this is something she’s wanted for a while, and knowing that I’ll continue to follow in her footsteps. She’ll find the best places for an occasional Sunday breakfast; she’ll know where the parks and the laundries are, where in her new neighborhood you can shop for shoes, bags and perfume, and the quickest way to get into Manhattan. And she won’t mind if her mother apartment hunts in her new neighborhood either.
In the mean time though, I’m going to have to figure out a way to be more productive during my three hour commute. Perhaps I can relearn Spanish by downloading lessons onto my iPod, or listen to books. Writing too might be an option, but since I prefer to type as opposed to actually write in longhand, I struggle with that. When I bought my Dell laptop I thought six pounds sounded light, that was only until I tried lugging around that six pound laptop along with all the other essential stuff I carry to and from work. So, maybe I should give up the need to feel productive….and just nap.