Since I left the 9-5 working world last December I do not often find myself riding the subway during peek rush hour times these days. Perhaps that is why I was so struck by the subway scene at Union Square today at 5:30PM. I walked down the stairway just as a subway was pulling away from the station only to find a packed platform. I wiggled my way through the crowd and positioned myself by the door of the next subway pulling into the station. As I stood my ground and pushed and squirmed to fit in the car that was beginning to resemble a packed sardine can more than a form of public transportation I quickly realized I was not going to fit. I stepped back and waited for the car doors to close so I could prepare myself for battle as soon as the next subway pulled up. As the subway pulled away I was struck by what was one of the most bizarre images I have seen. Faces, backs, butts, hips, sides, briefcases, backpacks, and designer handbags all pressed against the windows of the doors, bodies smashed together closer than most people get with their intimate partners on a daily basis being whisked uptown. I couldn’t help but think, “What is this? Do I really live here, voluntarily? I actually subject myself to this?”
My dad often talks about this study done with llamas. They overcrowded llamas on an island and basically found that they became aggressive and crazy. Last time I checked, Manhattan is an island, an island that is 23 square miles and, according to the 2010 census, has a population of 1,585,873. You do the math…I’m not interested in depressing myself that much. I already know that I live in a shoebox that New York City realtors would call a spacious studio. I know that I am surrounded by people no matter what time of day or night it is when I walk through my neighborhood. I am essentially living as one of those llamas in that study, along with 1,585,872 other people. What on earth does that say about me? Have I really chosen to live this way? How many times did my parents really drop me on my head when I was a baby?
Every time I leave the city I go through a cycle. It starts with, ah…so nice to be away from it all. Then I move into, I miss the city. Next, I don’t want to go back. I begin fantasizing about what my life would be like if I lived in the suburbs or in a smaller city or even…the country. When I return I always feel over stimulated, like a fish out of water for a few days. Then I fall back into my usual daily patterns and cannot imagine ever leaving this crazy making, anger inducing, overcrowded little island called home. Lately I have begun contemplating a move to Brooklyn. Some days it seems like a brilliant idea. Other days I think I must be absolutely nuts for wanting to leave Manhattan. And then, there are days like today, when I am so baffled by the city I have chosen to live in I am left dumbfounded.