Rat Race

by Marisa Olsen


I’d like to change gears a bit and reflect on the blessed phase of my life last year that is entitled Recent Competent College Grad meets Entry Level Job. Some background: I graduated in May of 2006, lived at home in Summit, NJ, did two internships for the summer, then went on board as a Floater at Sotheby’s auction house on the Upper East Side. Now I interned at Sotheby’s in 2005 so I was very familiar with the bridge/tunnel commute. However, once the words “real life” or “job” (rather than “summer internship”), settled in my head, the commute took on terrors of its own. Here is how my morning routine worked. Please bear in mind that my dear friend, CEB, was also floating at Sotheby’s and happened to live one block away from me, ie. we achieved the dream. The follow excerpt, for humor sake, will entail life sans CEB's company on the dredged commute, ie. the era when that salup ditched me for Manhattan (just kidding).

Oh the rat race!

The alarm, aka my mother, went off at 6:20 AM and I was immediately greeted with strong black coffee that could fuel a jet. After completing the ordinary morning tasks, I would hurry my chauffeur (mom, thanks again, or brother) around 7:00AM to reach the 7:18AM train (yes you read that correctly ) and subsequently relive the anxiety that was comparable to being late in Middle School during the morning commute. Upon reaching the station (of course I am always prompt, anxiety runs strong in Catholics and Jews, and even stronger when you’re a mutt like me), I avoid eye contact with anyone I may know (no offense, but it's so early in the morning and do we really want to do that do-we-sit-with-each-other- dance-while-I-awkwardly-listen-to-my-ipod?). Once safely on the platform, I encounter a whole new other anxiety; the pigeons that huddle and nest in the trellises above our innocent heads. The droppings on the cement platform say enough, they’re dangerous and the puffy, dirty flying rodents are ready to drop. Hood in tact, I am resilient and stand diligently, gently rubbing up my elbows against fellow commuters. The whistle blows from the approaching vehicle and we get ready. The platform is packed and the primary goal in this race is to narrow down to a train door, jump in and snag a seat. This is why positioning on the platform is really key, pigeon poop and all. One, two, three, GO. It’s a race for the doors, push in, lucky if you’re a girl…sometimes chivalry still exists. Everyone scrambles. The unfortunate stand.

Once arriving, we all line up like cattle, being herded to our destined locations. Some days, I take the E, which will lead me to the East Side, hop on 6 and then take the Cross Town bus. The E is notorious for being dirty (watch out for those weird icicles of goop that drip from the ceiling!), over crowded and pushy, like most of Manhattan. It just shows you how civilized the 6 is (sort of). The 6 boasts digital banners that allocate the next station stop and final destination. It is also much cleaner, but still will supply any innocent rider with the legal sexual harassment that occurs every morning in front of our eyes. What? Sexual harassment? That's right. Any rider, male or female, young or old, will experience the boob graze, bum grab and crotch rub due to the over-crowded cars. Even the more civilized bus will supply you with the thrill of a stranger breathing down your neck, coughing on you and still "accidentally" grinding up against you like two soused sophomores at a T& E in the 1942 room gyrating to Sean Paul. I digress. After two subway rides, an Xtown bus and a few more blocks, you're essentially a hop, skip and jump from Penn Station (approximately 1 hour later) to your destination; Sotheby's.

[Insert 8 hours of work]

Now the time is 5:30 and it's imperative that you make a mad dash to catch the express train. Personally, I like to spice it up on the way home. I’ll either run the four long blocks to the Lexington route, or if I really want to cruise in style and finish up that New Yorker article (why are they so long?), I’ll opt for the Xtown bus. Down the 6 we go until 33rd Street, run like the wind, past the Artisinal (yum), past the homeless woman in front of the Church (sorry, no spare change today, too bad I'm not salaried) and race, race, race. Finally I reach 8th Avenue, which always makes me giggle. It’s really the NY/ Long Islander commuters against the NY stapled Taxi Cabs. We wait at the light, pushing slowly into the street, some brave souls just run. In the end, the commuters win, ultimately stopping traffic and make it to the welcoming abyss of Penn station. We swarm and wait for the listing of the Express Train like soy sauce on sashimi. The track number appears, the announcement is made and we run like Flo Jo, the final push and elbow rub, down the stairs, scramble to a seat. There, we made it. Unless our train is late, held up a few yards from the destination track or the electricity is out on NJ transit; anything goes.