We’ve all been there: waiting on the L platform for a train that may or may not be coming, trapped on a stalled F train in the middle of a dark, muggy tunnel. The streets of New York City are tough enough, but the real struggle takes place underground, on crowded platforms and in subway cars that are empty for a very smelly reason. Especially given the current state of the MTA, it can be hard to keep your cool when someone’s sweating all over you, but here are some tips for how to make it through subway delays with your mind and body intact.
1. Bring a book. If there’s even a slight chance you might end up taking the subway, you should have a book on you. A real book, not one you downloaded to the Books app on your phone. We all know how that goes: you read a digital “page,” realize you didn’t absorb any of it, think about the fact that the train still hasn’t arrived, read the page again, realize you don’t remember a single word of it, look at the board and see there’s still no information about when the next train might arrive, read the page again, then give up and refresh your Instagram Stories for 20 minutes to see if that cute guy you met at a party the other night has watched them (he has!).
That’s why you need to bring a real book, one made of paper and everything. It can even be a hardcover, if you want to make sure every single person on the train knows you are AN INTELLIGENT PERSON WHO READS BOOKS. If you’re looking for recommendations, I suggest any installment of the Fifty Shades series. They’re terrible, but every time I see someone reading one in public it makes me happy, so do it for your fellow riders. If you’d rather read a good book, I recommend The Nest, which is such a fun read it’ll make you forget you’re even on the subway and, if you are a hardcover braggart, The Mars Room, which is excellent and will make you feel grateful you’re only temporarily stuck on the subway and not in prison for life.
2. Eavesdrop on a group of teens. The last time I did this, I became so enthralled in their conversation about Jessie, the president of the board (I still have no idea what this board was. For all I know, it could have been a plank of wood that formed part of a literal cabinet) who absolutely had to go that I almost missed my stop. By the time they got off the train (without me!), I felt like I was part of their group. Though I’d started riding the train alone, I’d become part of something: a bunch of friends talking smack. I fit right in.
3. Watch a couple fight. If there are no teens to watch on the train, look for the nearest miserable couple. Observe their toxic relationship for as long as it makes you feel good about the fact that you’re single — but no longer. If you continue to watch them, your brain will be invaded with thoughts like, “well, at least they have each other” and “if this R train never moves, they can start a new life together in this tunnel but I, I will always be a wanderer, a mole person without a mole companion.” If you start thinking about their mole children, it’s time to switch cars.
4. Listen to a meditation app. I’ve never done this but it seems like a good idea, right?
5. Read the subway ads exactly once. Learn everything the subway has to teach you about Thinx, then move on. I repeat move on. Whatever you do, don’t continue to read every Thinx ad on the train until you start to not only form ideas about their marketing approach, but come up with some of your own, decide yours are better, and start drafting an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a full pitch for your new advertising strategy that’s so ingenious, you’re certain it’ll make even men buy menstruation underwear.
6. Listen to music. The music can’t be too sad — or too happy. If it’s too sad, you’ll start thinking about all the mistakes you’ve made that have led you to this place: trapped in a dark tunnel far below the streets of New York City, your face in some guy’s armpit. If the music is too happy, you’ll remember how much better life is up on the ground, in the sunlight. You’ll become anxious, desperate to be wanderin’ free, wishing you could be part of that world.
Now that I think of it, what you want to listen to is songs from Disney movies. They’ll remind you of your youth, when you would have found your current situation even more excruciating but just a little bit exciting. You’ll think of how you would have weathered this predicament back then, when your imagination was all you needed. You’ll feel like a child again, all the way underground, breathing in a stranger’s stench, and suddenly that stranger will look at you, and you’ll realize you’ve been singing the Aladdin soundtrack out loud this whole time.
7. Analyze all your past relationships to figure out what you should’ve done differently. Spend some time dwelling on all the signs you missed and kick yourself for having missed them when now, in hindsight, they were so obvious. Sure, it won’t make you feel any better, but it will certainly be a distraction.
8. Stare at a baby. If she’s not staring back, stop.
9. Hit on somebody. If they don’t seem interested, stop.
10. Pretend you’re on an airplane instead. Imagine if you were on an airplane that stalled like this in the middle of the air. Wouldn’t that be worse? It would be so much worse. You’d be plummeting to the earth right now. Instead, you’re underneath the ground, safe and sound, unless someone starts eating something with a strong odor. Be grateful for where you are or, if not grateful, at least understand that things could be worse. They could barely be worse, but they could.
Cover photo courtesy of Fancycrave.com for Pexels.