New York State of Mind

(This is NOT a volleyball article. Turn back now if you only see me as a one-trick pony…or if you bore easily. Although I do promise not to make this a regular habit.)

I was recently in New York as my family and I are huge theater buffs. We are also huge Harry Potter fans and about a year ago I purchased tickets to the play Harry Potter – Cursed Child. Well, this past Sunday was our chosen day so on Saturday I found myself sitting on the subway into Manhattan from JFK and this is what I want to write about here. (I do want to quickly say that Cursed Child was insanely good and I highly recommend it to anyone remotely familiar with Harry Potter. They made magic come alive on the stage and frankly at times I was giddy 11-year old boy hoping for my acceptance letter. Oh, and I so would have been sorted into Hufflepuff!)

Back to the subway and I want to start this off by saying that I was primarily raised by women. I have always held doors open, put the toilet seat down and, since it’s pertinent here, stood for women on buses, trains and subways. In our world today, we have moved to a very right and wrong society where strong opinions are more important than actually being correct. I say this because my choices with respect to women are really about respect and nothing more and don’t deserve a harsh critique on your part. Some may view my choices as positive and others negative or take my views as a position that I’m critical of others that don’t do the same. Please don’t view my choices as right or wrong, just view them. With that said, again, we go back to the subway and if you are familiar with the Jamaica to Manhattan portion of the E subway line then you know that the subway will be pretty empty at the Jamaica station. I had a duffel and a backpack and took a seat with not much on my mind. Actually, the only thing on my mind was not to sit in urine. I’ve done that on the subway in the past and have learned from it. I don’t know how many stops we were looking at on this line but it was in the double-digits. After about the second or third stop I noticed that there were women standing but there was a seat open next to me covered slightly by another passenger’s bag. I had two bags of my own in front of me and figured if someone wanted to sit they would ask for this passenger’s bag to be moved. At the next stop a mother and child got on and I tried to get eye contact to let them know that they could both sit where I was. As with most women, however, she avoided my eye contact. They ended up getting off a couple of stops later but this experience started an introspection that I’m sharing with you now.

I started to look around the subway and noticed about half of the people sitting were men. There were plenty of women standing and one finally asked for the bag to be moved and sat down next to me. I started thinking that I needed to stand up and move my bags over to my wife and daughter. I needed to let someone else take my seat. At the next stop, the man with the bag two seats from me left and immediately the seat was taken by another man! This was certainly not my world but I assure you I didn’t look at it as right or wrong but only as a new (albeit strange) experience. I noticed that virtually every man sitting down also had their head down either looking at their phone or perhaps in prayer for all I really knew. I was born and raised in California but have spent my entire adult life in Texas. I spent enough time on the east coast to know that their vibe is not the same as you’ll find in either state. Again, not that their vibe is wrong; just different. At this point on my journey I determined that I was stuck. I was going to remain seated and this honestly started a slight internal panic on my part. The subway was now very full and I rationalized that there just wasn’t a way to get my bags moved over to my family and with half of the seats taken up by guys, what good would it do other than appear judgmental.

I started to wonder about the mindset of my fellow guy sitters. Were they having the same inner turmoil I was or was this just another day for them? What were the women thinking? I know that my desire to stand can be considered archaic in today’s world and I wondered if it would even exist in me if I had been brought up in New York? New Yorkers, in my experience, can be direct and outspoken. Does this come from riding the subway?

Once in Manhattan we took to the streets and the family and I marveled at the games played between drivers and pedestrians. (Also bike riders but don’t get me started on those guys. They are seriously dangerous and, yes, no right or wrong, but they are wrong!) I’m all for getting a jump at an intersection as long as no cars are coming but there were countless times where pedestrians seemed to be begging to be hit. If a car was delayed from entering the intersection even slightly, pedestrians took this as permission to jaywalk. One guy was walking with a young lady and pulled her into the intersection during one of these gaps. As the second car sped up to decrease the distance, the woman attempted to pull her arm free and retreat to the safety of the curb. The guy stood there dumbfounded and yanked her back into the street saying, “He’ll stop for us. Just watch.” The car did stop, which only caused additional pedestrians to walk in front of the car to also jaywalk. There were about 7 of us that remained on the curb that just looked at each other and I knew who the tourists were. Again, I don’t live in this crowded environment where getting anywhere is a feat but I wondered if their thinking was derived from their personal subway experiences.

My wife’s family is in Houston so we occasional go down there. On the last few trips I’ve noticed that the divers are becoming more impatient at left turns. It’s common to see 2 or 3 cars run the red light on a left turn now and I don’t ever remembering this to be the case just a few years back. Is Houston becoming too congested and will this lead to a change in behavior in the next generation of Houstonians? As I said earlier, I grew up in California; southern California for the most part. The only mass transit at the time was really the bus lines but there sure was a lot of traffic. I remember dealing with the traffic through lots of planning and knowing the side streets. You certainly didn’t get on a freeway during rush hour and expect to drive aggressively. I dealt with the lack of mass transit through the use of my thumb, hitchhiking as early as 7 years old through Topanga Canyon. I really didn’t have the option to keep my head down as it was only polite to talk to my driver as I reached my destination. I’ve always attributed a lot of my makeup to being raised by women but maybe it simply came down to my transportation options.

I’m not sure there is a point to my inner monologue here other than I now realize my initial mistake back at the Jamaica station was that I should have never taken a seat regardless of how many open seats there were. I should have shoved the bags in front of my family and stood in front of them. I’m not saying it would have been the right thing to do but it would have been the right thing for me to do. What can I say; I’m just a hitchhiking trip planner kind of guy living every day in more of a subway jaywalking turn on red kind of world.


4 thoughts on “New York State of Mind

  1. The Boston subways are about the same these days. Boston and Cambridge and other towns have put in so many bike lanes and special signage just for bikes (even their own stop lights). That has empowered the bike riders to think they have the same rights as people driving cars, which I always debate with my daughter as we drive in that area.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good for you and your “conflict of conscience”. It demonstrates that you were reared well my friend! From SoCal to Texas, now if that move didn’t put you in a state of cognitive dissonance what would! (unless you got out soon enough, which it sounds like you did! Be well my friend, love your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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