I’m a West Coast guy.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lived their for the first 18 years of my life. But rather than go home for the week of Thanksgiving break that Hopkins so generously bestows upon its students (seriously, all of my friends at other colleges are so jealous), I decided to take my talents to New York and visit my friends, cousins, and girlfriend. As a native Los Angelino, I was daunted by the City’s tall buildings –which almost seem to scrape the sky – and loud noises. The raw mass of people and cars assaulted my senses, and the bright lights of Times Square nearly blinded me.
As I’ve only ever travelled by car or surfboard, New York’s mass transit system provided a daunting challenge. Would I be able to navigate the strange labyrinth of subway tunnels and grid-like streets all by myself? Well last night, I decided to visit my high school friends at their college uptown and find out for myself.
The journey begins
I was told that in New York, people walk as a mode of transportation to get from point A to point B. This seems odd to me, as the furthest distance I had ever walked was the 20 feet from my car to the vegan bakery on Rodeo Drive, but I figured I could give it a shot. “The walk”, as they call it, from my cousins’ apartment to the subway actually went pretty well, although I was perplexed by the fact that in New York, the red “stop” hand on the crosswalk sign seems to mean “walk”.
The Subway Station
Here’s where thing get weird. The “subway” was unlike any of the previous subways I had ever been to. There was no salad bar, I couldn’t find the cashier anywhere, and it didn’t even seem to be a restaurant at all! After asking around, I was told that the “subway station” was actually a place underground where you caught a “subway” to take you from one part of the city to another. Now, the only underground I had ever heard of referred to the rap game, so I was interested to see what sort of artists they had on this station.
After a fierce duel with the rotating door of death, I made it down to the platform,which – to my disappointment – was entirely devoid of funky fresh beats.
After waiting around for what seemed like days – my circadian rhythm gets entirely thrown off in the absence of sunlight – I perceived a faint light emerging from around the corner of the tunnel. With a roar greater than a thousand yelling yoga instructors, the subway came hurtling towards the station. Was this beast or machine? Friend or foe? I had no time to safely ponder these questions before the mob of riders pushed me into the subway’s belly. I was at its mercy now.
Once inside the subway, I realized to my great delight that it was merely a train. I had seen trains on TV – usually referred to as “Thomas” or delivering frosty-cold Coors Light™ to unsuspecting city-dwellers – so I was familiar with the general concept. That being said, in addition to discovering what it felt like to be a sardine, I did learn a number of new things.
- Dancing, regardless of quality, is tolerated on subways.
- Subways go aboveground too (?!?!?!?).
- I do not deal well with sudden stops and starts.
Eventually, the subway reached my destination, and I returned to realm of the living.
Navigating The Streets
Once above ground, I faced a new obstacle. How to decipher the complex numerical grid of New York streets? After dozens of minutes of intensive thinking, I deduced the system’s underlying logic. “Avenues”, so named after the French venue – or “a coming” – run latitudinal and delineate the path that one would travel to escape to the mainland in the event of an invasion from the sea. They are denoted by names such as “Broadway” or “Electric”. Streets run longitudinal and mark the route one would take to launch a seaward escape in case of attack from the west. They are denoted by numbers such as “2nd” or “8675309st”.
My assessment proved to be correct, as after 40 minutes and 113 streets, I arrived at my location. My friends were thrilled to see me and listen to the tale of my journey, and after an hour and a half of catching up and reminiscing, it was time to do the whole thing all over again.