Before the pandemic, I took the subway in NYC all the time. It was always my first choice for transportation. Then there was the pandemic. If I needed to leave my neighborhood during the pandemic (usually only for a doctor’s appointment or the occasional Covid shot), I would resort to a bus or, sometimes, a taxi. Taxis have a very reassuring plastic barrier between the front seat and the backseat. As a senior citizen, I really appreciated that. It wasn’t that I was that concerned about Covid transmission on the train, since I knew ridership would be way down. I was much more concerned about crime. Fewer riders to me meant more possibilities for criminal behavior.
Since March 2020, and with all the dramatic news stories involving subway incidents, that concern hasn’t dissipated at all. I’ve spoken to some friends and acquaintances, who are also senior citizens, who don’t have any problem riding the subway. Although some said they’d seen passengers on the trains and platforms who looked a bit “unstable,” they said they were “harmless”.
I’m not sure I can summon the courage to see for myself and am wondering what it’s going to take to get me to go down those subway stairs again.
With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.
A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.
I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.
I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.
I’m very grateful for all the Etsy shops selling masks now. I’ve bought a few with filter pockets and am inserting cut-up vacuum cleaner bags or Scott Shop towels. They seem to work just fine, fit snugly and let me continue to breathe through them.
My building requires everyone to mask-up in all public spaces: elevators, hallways, lobby, laundry room, mail room. So putting on a mask is as much a part of my apartment-leaving routine as taking my keys.
When I venture out for short walks on Riverside Drive, about 90% of the people during this week #8 are wearing masks. That percentage has certainly increased in the past few weeks, although there are a few people wearing them around their chins. It’s not clear what they’re thinking since there aren’t that many places in NYC where you’re not 6′ away from another human being. So having them constantly over your nose and mouth is certainly the way to go.
A stubborn group of non-mask-wearers are the runners who (mostly) don’t have them on. It’s also hard to stay out of their way when they run in the middle of the walkway. Maybe they haven’t heard the news that there’s a pandemic, or, as Governor Cuomo said, maybe they’re just selfish.
I’m hoping I’ll get used to the feeling of wearing a mask before those 90 degree high humidity days begin here in the city. Then wearing a mask on a cool spring day will seem pretty pleasant. No question that, as with most things and this pandemic, it can always be worse.
Inertia is a powerful force. We may be sitting on the sofa reading the newspaper or a book, and finding it an extremely pleasant way to spend the time. Especially if it’s raining out. Also, if you went to the dinner you were invited to attend, you’d need to change clothes. Yes, you RSVP’d that you’d attend, but now, upon reflection, were you really that excited about spending time with group of people who were acquaintances but not really close friends? All these thoughts may go through your head and keep you sitting on the sofa while plotting some convincing excuses for why you can’t make it.
However, this is a pitch to recommend getting up off the sofa, changing clothes and getting out — even if the people you’ll be meeting are not your BFF’s.
It seems pretty obvious that as we get older, there’s enormous value in socializing and spending time with other people, especially if you live alone. We’ve all read that having a network of friends can help us live longer. Apart from the human companionship, there’s quite a lot to be said for changing it up and doing things that are different. I’m no expert on the human brain but those synapses in our brains like change and get all fired up when we do novel things. Perhaps meeting at a new restaurant, trying something different to eat, having some interesting conversations or meeting some new people would all help to keep our brains sharper.
Whenever possible, avoid rush hours on the subways in New York City if you’re a senior citizen!
One of the luxuries of retirement is that your schedule is much more flexible. At the end of your day, you no longer need to stream out of a work place with hordes of other humans. You no longer need to feel the press of humanity pouring into the bowels of the NYC subway system. You can avoid the frenzy of the turnstiles and the packed platforms. Most significantly, you can pass on the experience of being squeezed together like a sardine with sometimes smelly and occasionally rude people on a train that lurches or stalls. Except when you can’t.
As luck would have it, I’m taking a terrific class in midtown this spring that regrettably meets from 2 until 5 pm. So, once a week, I’m living all of the above subway experiences in the Times Square subway station and on the #2 Express or #1 Local trains uptown.
If there is ever a reason to stay as physically fit as possible after retirement, it’s for when you can’t avoid using the NYC subway system during rush hour.
It’s pretty remarkable these days how many people are tuned in and zoned out and listening to, or looking at, their phones. I was on the subway recently and counted 6 out of the 8 people on the seats opposite who were looking at, or listening to, their phones. Of the remaining two, one was asleep. The other was reading the print edition of The New York Times. Quaint.
It’s especially interesting on the city’s streets to see how many people are plugged into their phones, seemingly oblivious to the city around them. I’m actually amazed when they seem to magically get out of the way just in the nick of time to avoid walking into someone or something. It’s an instinct that smart phone users seem to share with the city’s pigeons. Fortunately, nobody I know has ever stepped on a pigeon yet.
As I was riding the M104 bus yesterday afternoon going north from W. 88th and Broadway, a man got on at 91st Street lugging a pink polka dot suitcase. He found one of the coveted single seats and heaved his large frame into it. As soon as he was settled, he started ranting in a very loud voice about how Trader Joe’s was to be commended for not inflating the cost of flowers yesterday for Valentine’s Day. The rant went on for about 2 stops, so everyone on the bus could hear about their fair pricing when other merchants yesterday were gouging customers for prices. Satisfied that we’d all benefited from that intelligence, he opened the polka dot suitcase and pulled out a rubber chicken, which he waved around. “AND ISN’T THIS THE BEST RUBBER CHICKEN YOU’VE EVER SEEN,” he demanded to know at about 90 decibels.
I was initially sitting across from him but the rubber chicken prompted me to move back to the seat up the stairs, where he was no longer in my bubble of adjacent space. I then proceeded to look out the window and intently study the land use of Broadway.
Mercifully, I could pull the cord for my stop and get off, leaving him and the rubber chicken behind.
What’s there to say about the oaf who takes up 2 seats on the city’s subways and spreads wide his legs, forcing people seated on either side of him to squeeze themselves together to avoid any contact. Not much.
As a matter of self-preservation, it’s never wise to pick a fight with any of these characters by, say, asking if he could please sit in the one seat to which his single-swipe-Metro card fare would entitle him. I actually think there should be a variant of congestion pricing for the NYC subways, wherein people who do take up 2 seats pay twice the fare. Think about that, Andy Byford, to help put the MTA’s budget in the black.
I’ve also observed that the typical manspreader has an outward demeanor that looks as though he’d plunge a knife into you, for no particular reason. So for that reason I’d recommend taking the low road and be prepared to see how thin you can make yourself if you’re determined to sit or, at worst, just stand. I’ve often stood squarely in front of the 2-seat-occupying-clod, who’s often decades younger than me. Any personal satisfaction comes from just giving the offender dirty looks. I grant you it’s not a great solution, but it’s something to allow me to vent my spleen in an otherwise win-less situation on a New York City subway train.