You get out of work later than usual which puts you in a funk because your best friend is visiting. Getting home late will throw off all of your plans. You impatiently wait for the one train to take you uptown. The sign reads 4 min away, but you wait for over ten. By this time, the number of people waiting for the train has increased exponentially, and everyone is forced to squeeze on when it finally decides to arrive.
Despite it being early February, most people ignore the extra space each puffy coat takes up and pack sardine style into each subway car. You resent each new passenger boarding, your new enemies, imagining them taking pleasure in surrounding you as tight as possible. “Can’t they wait for the next one?” you wonder. You clearly can’t do that because you have important things to do. Obviously.
The subway lurches forward. Your puffy winter coat, while never quite warm enough in the New York winter air, has transformed into your own personal sauna. You begin the age old winter subway debate: do I attempt to take off my coat in this crowded subway or do I tough it out till I make it out? As usual, the coat wins.
The conductor makes an announcement muffled and fuzzy. You cannot quite make out what he has to say, but you manage to hear the word express. Your heart sinks. Now the subway will now be taking you 8 blocks further from your desired stop, which you know is merely a fraction of the block you walk each day, but still, it is the principle of the thing. A small sixty year old woman shouts obscenities, and you wonder what odd corner of culture you are occupying.
The subway doors open. Fresh air floods the car. You squeeze pass your adversaries happy to be rid of their insulation. The insufferable heat that trapped you in the subway is lost as soon as you step outside of it. You feel a little guilty about your thoughts towards your fellow New Yorkers but not enough to rid you of your bad mood. You power walk toward Zara. The coat you recently purchased still has the card tail tag on it. You now must stand in line behind 15 other crabby New Yorkers, so the store can correct the mistake they made in the first place. You hoped the line would move quickly, but apparently everyone else in this city had the same idea as you. New people try to get in line behind you. The cashier yells to a customer that the line is closed after me. This happens a few more times, and each person is equally upset. Maybe on a different day you would empathize, but you feel almost proud that the cut off is behind you.
You finally get the tag removed from your coat and rush out the door as fast as you can. You are too busy focusing on getting home to realize that you swiped your subway card at the downtown station instead of uptown. You resist the urge to have a real New York breakdown in public. It is now 8:00 pm. You run across the street hoping the wait won’t be too long. The turnstyle will not let you pass because “your card was just used.” At this point, you realize the entire New York City public transit system has been plotting secretly against you for months. You wonder where their meetings are held.
You decide to catch a cab for the remainder of your trip home despite knowing that you’re simultaneously breaking one of your New Years resolutions and disappointing your parents. You quickly learn as you stand fruitlessly with your hand in the air that the cabbies must have been invited to the anti-Anneke transit meetings.
When a cab finally stops for you, your patience has reached its limit. You give him your cross streets with as much attitude as you can muster, and you feel zero regret.
Your driver is middle aged. His name is Ali. He has graying hair and a thick accent. You can tell he is in the mood to chat. You are annoyed. He moved here when he was in his young twenties just like you. Every weekend he drives to the Upper West Side with his wife to get brunch at one of their favorite spots. He asks you if you ever have gone up to 110th and explored the different restaurants. You say no. You feel slightly embarrassed that you have only ventured downtown for your excursions. He asks where you are from. You tell him Chicago. He says he has family there and has always wanted to visit. You start to feel the past couple of hours start to fade into Midtown as the cab drives further and further north.
He asks if any if your family are from New York. You tell him that you are the only one. He explains that he did the same thing when he was young. He always wanted to live in New York he said. “If you don’t mind difficult living, cities are spectacular.” You commiserate in how expensive Manhattan can get. He recommends a few restaurants in you neighborhood that aren’t too pricey. You begin to take back your animosity toward New York public transit.
You tell him that sometimes you feel like this city gets the best of you.
“But you are an urban girl. You are brave.” He responds.
Suddenly, you feel exactly where you are supposed to be.
Photography: Jonathan James Photography