The “Crazy” Tunnel

Following my last post about my thoughts on a simpler life– a little recap of some everyday NYC craziness.

Last week my friend D was in town from LA. Thrilled as I was to have a visitor, I wasn’t able to get any time off work, so while I was chained to my desk, she went about on her own, and in my off hours we met up. Over the weekend we traipsed around the city—touring, shopping, eating—and at one point we were strolling through the pedestrian tunnels between subway stations…underground. We were strolling because it was a Sunday. I have the pleasure of walking through one of these tunnels every weekday in order to get myself to work. And I am hardly strolling. My friend had never been in one of the tunnels, didn’t really know they existed.

Well it sort of just happens when people visit—I often take on this persona of tour guide as opposed to just friend. I tell little anecdotes about my New York life that might be pertinent to where we are or what we are doing at a certain moment in time. So we’re there, in the tunnel and we’re walking a speed I am normally appalled by—like a negative two. As far as she knew, that was the norm. So I told her: “I walk through one of these every day, but I never walk this slowly,” I said. “I’m usually speed-walking.” And I zoomed off to show her. I stopped and she caught up to me. “I actually think of the stretch, as a race.”

She looked at me, puzzled. “A race?” she questioned.

“Yeah,” I said. “I pick someone who is a little way’s ahead of me and I make it my goal to beat them. It’s as if the minute I climb the stairs from my first train’s platform and enter the tunnel, I’m in this mental zone where nothing else matters. I consciously engage my leg muscles and I take off. My feet are moving so fast, my heels clicking in double-time on the concrete corridor. My heart is racing. I’m weaving in out of the other commuters, some walking with me, some towards me, many displaying little urgency in getting from point A to B. A woman with a stroller is up ahead, I wiggle around her; I’m stuck behind a man reading his Kindle while walking, I pass him; another swinging his arms with an umbrella in hand that nearly stabs me in the abdomen, I do a side step to get out from behind him. A woman is coming head-on with a bag on her shoulder and just before we collide I scoot to the right. Clear. I’m flying, under the low-ceiling with fluorescent tube lights past the dots of dried gum on the ground. And then it’s uphill for a minute at the end past the guy handing out free copies of AM New York shouting the morning’s headlines and a daily greeting like ‘Happy Monday’ or ‘Thank God It’s Friday’.

“No way,” she says in response, her eyes wide like I am ABSOLUTELY CRAZY.

“Yes!” I said. “And I’m not the only one.”

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“A lot of us do it,” I tell her. “We never say it out loud, but you can feel it. All of us in a race, speeding to get to the other side. It happens all the time, someone with me from start to finish, our feet in unison the whole way, in an unspoken competition. I usually get them in the end on the uphill.” I continue. “Unless they cheat and run.”

She’s looking at me, still in shock. And yes, she thinks I’m crazy.

And then a day goes by and she’s talking to her sister who visits New York a lot for work and, now used to city life that she does things like a New Yorker. So when D tells her, “Yeah, Andrea races in the subway tunnels,” laughing about how nuts I am, her sister looks back at her and says, “Race in the tunnels. Oh yeah, I do it all the time.”

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