All posts tagged: Commute

The Birthday Incident: Turning 40 in a Parking Garage

My friend, Andrew, an artist in Los Angeles, was grouchy on the night he turned 40. He did not like the aging process. To cheer him up, I made reservations for a small birthday dinner at his favorite restaurant and invited three of his closest friends. Andrew, being a control freak, insisted that we all meet outside his apartment complex at precisely 7 p.m. and then he would drive us to the restaurant. He was proud of his driving mojo and only trusted himself to get us to the restaurant in time. Getting together for dinner in Los Angeles can require as much precision as a military operation. Friends live far apart, and traffic is always bad. Sandra drove from Pasadena, picking up Hiroshi downtown, while I drove from Redondo Beach, picking up Brian in West Hollywood. We all converged on Andrew’s block in Silverlake, parking our cars near his apartment complex. Part One of the mission was accomplished. The metal security gate to Andrew’s garage creaked open and Andrew appeared, driving his 1996 Honda …

The Girl in the Gray Flannel Suit

(Photo Credit: Helen Jane Hearn) Before I moved to Bridgeport — Connecticut’s only really big, bad city — I commuted into Manhattan out of a station in Westport. A bit of trivia: Westport is the town that played the role of EverySuburb in the 1955 bestseller The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, reissued with a forward by Jonathan Franzen, and in the hit movie, starring Gregory Peck. You likely haven’t read the book or seen the movie (I did, only just in advance of writing this), but I bet the title triggers the image of its protagonist: the button-downed, soul-squashed, bread-winning husband/middle-manager who takes his place on the platform every weekday morning at 6:34 a.m. at the exact spot where the door will open, briefcase and folded-up New York Times in hand. What you probably don’t know: On the Westport platform and at that time in the morning, not much has changed. Many mornings it was a sea of grey-suited men, most of whom resemble Dick Cheney at some point in his life, and me. …

The Rebirth and Reuse of Great Global Cities

“Vital cities have marvelous innate abilities for understanding, communicating, contriving, and inventing what is required to combat their difficulties… Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.” — Jane Jacobs Whenever I take a stroll on New York’s Highline, I think about the creativity, ingenuity, money, politics and gumption it took to bring it to life. What some might have seen as an old, decrepit railroad trestle, others had the vision to retrofit it into a lush, elevated park that has added immeasurable pleasure to Manhattan dwellers and visitors alike. This is sustainability in action: an urban infrastructure turned urban green machine, improving air quality, affording new views of the city and providing a happy respite from the hustle. Why is this so important? The environment that surrounds you is the quality of your life. It’s as simple — and as incredibly hard — as that. During its upcoming summit on September 25, the United Nations is adding “Sustainable Cities …

How to Become a Car Person In Just 3 Short Years

In my 18 years in New York City, I relied on the subway every single day of my life just like everyone else. First, it was the G to the L. Then, the G to the 7 or maybe the G to the E. Then, there was the L to the N, the G to the F, the L to the 2 (and that horrible tunnel between them), and finally the 4. Just the 4. Live and work long enough in NYC, and you’ll earn the privilege of a single-train commute. For years, I traipsed through wind and snow, uphill both ways to the subway — not an old saying in this case, but likely actually true based on NYC Sanitation’s snow removal efforts. I walked in sub-zero temps and felt my eyeballs start to freeze. I plodded through swampy humidity with sweat rolling down my back. I darted around bewildered tourists at the top of the subway stairs. I always got on the train at the exact door that would match my preferred exit …

Next Stop: Harrassment. Why I Won’t Take Public Transportation

I didn’t need Pope Francis to tell me global warming was a thing. I’m one of those folks who doesn’t willfully shut their eyes to scientific evidence. I was even on my high school’s recycling committee way back when. (True story: My class ring has a dolphin on it majestically swimming though the center of the recycling arrows symbol.) I cannot support, however, what is probably one of the best ways for your average person to help out the Earth: taking public transportation. After spending five years enduring daily harassment on my commute to work, I would torch a planet full of dinosaurs for fuel so that I could travel in the protective, asshole-free bubble of my own car. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and lived there until I was 32 years old. That killer combo of living in a large city and being a woman means I’m no stranger to street harassment. A “Hey, baby,” here, a “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” there. Or sometimes worse. But that’s life in the big …

Zen and the Art of the Crafty Commute

As someone who makes her home in a tree-lined, mostly hipster-free (knock wood), very outer area of the most desirable outer borough of Manhattan, I spend an inordinate amount of time commuting. Despite the rumblings of further encroaching gentrification, I’m blessedly still just a little too far from the maddening crowd. Yet another Fashion Week event invitation? Not all that interesting if it means spending extra hours on the back and forth. Tribeca Film Festival? You’ll need a pretty compelling line-up for me to spring for a cab back home. And, yes, I did just turn down an invitation to the cocktail party gala for the Frieda Kahlo exhibit up in the Bronx because no one offered to send an Uber. While I schlep back and forth on the F train to meetings or dinners or cocktails or basically anything worth doing, I tend to complain mightily. And I always have a plan of attack. I avoid eye contact, avoid frottage and try to have something to focus on other than the smells and sound effects …

The Ritual of Flying and Crying

The window seat on airplanes has always been my refuge. I can turn my face into it to hide my tears, or I can focus on a cloud while flashing back to an 11 year-old quietly sobbing on the nine-hour journey from London to Vancouver. Most of us experience at least one traumatic event that shapes and alters everything to come. As a child, my move to Vancouver had a shocking air of finality. I watched my whole extended family gathered at Heathrow Airport to see us off. There were various aunts sobbing, stoic uncles wiping deceptive trickles off their cheeks and unaware cousins who scoffed at the hoopla around them. I opted for a British stiff upper lip, hoping it would allow me to show a sense of decorum and unflappability. As I stood by the departure gate, I felt like I was going into exile. My younger sister and dad made the first move to go on ahead and waved back happily. This prompted a twinge of betrayal in me. How could they …

Margit’s Note: How Are You Getting There?

(Photo Credit: Helen Jane Hearn) “Down below the street can you dig the steady beat it’s the subway. Subway!” There’s this groovy Sesame Street musical bit with muppets-as-straphangers that still plays in my head, some 40 odd years later, as I venture underground. There’s still a whiff (and I do mean a whiff) of novelty to the journey. Most days I loathe the commute, but on some special days — when someone’s not manspreading into my business or I haven’t entered a car where a kindly human has left a package of smell — I get a seat, pop out my Kindle and it’s actually quite pleasant. But let’s be honest: more often I feel annoyed, I’m wedged in someone’s armpit and am just trying to find a wall to lean on so I don’t get kicked by the kid doing a backflip next to my head. What time is it? Showtime folks, showtime. As New Yorkers, we love to discuss our routes and travel methods. I could take the F train, but then do I …