A few months ago a co-worker at the Paycheck Factory moved to the town next to mine. That meant that he was going to start riding the train out of the same station that I did. He had never commuted by train before so this was a new experience for him. I tried to give him a few tips on where to stand, which cars open where, which tracks to watch but it all pretty much went in one ear and out the other. My years of commuting experience didn’t amount to much in his eyes, so I didn’t worry about it.
Now over my commuting life I have gone in & out of Penn Station, Grand Central Station and the World Trade Centers (before 9/11) so I think I know a thing or two about commuting. The WTC was like Lemmings. Everyone headed headlong in a single direction – up & out in the morning and down & in at night. Grand Central has always seemed to me like an ant hill that has been kicked over. Ants & people scurrying every which way with no semblance of order but all with a purpose. That’s probably because your train is always on the same track so everyone knows exactly where they are going. Penn Station however, is a different animal entirely. You have Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad all using the same tracks so no one knows where there train home is going to be. People mill about like cattle waiting to stampede and stampede they do once the track is announced. I used to bribe a track attendant to tell me which track so I could jump on early but then he got switched to the dayshift and pretty much became worthless to me. Luckily, I had paid attention to patterns, schedules, conductors & engineers so when I was once again on my own, I could still beat the system. And I do.
So that brings me back to yesterday. As usual, I walked from the office to Penn Station and my co-worker took the subway. He obviously beat me to the station but I beat him onto the train by a good 7 minutes. Again. When he came running onto the train he was exasperated to see me on the train before him. Again. He finally gave up and asked me, “How do you it ? How do you always know where the train is before everyone else does ?” I thought for a moment and then said “The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. Practice. Practice”
He should have listened to me the first time I told him.