People — they’re the worst.
Especially while wiggling greasy bodies into a grimy metal tube each morning just minutes after one has woken from a particularly enjoyable dream. This scene revives a mantra worth discussing, especially (given the proximity of St. John’s students to the campuses) amongst university undergrads:
Commuting is the most unfathomably boring task a human being can ever undertake. By bus the
pungency of body odor can be overwhelming; by
subway the clenched, crushed, cramped space of
fluorescence provokes a morbid sense of hopelessness.
Is this really all commuting is about? Or is it merely a cynical summary of public transportation in
New York City?
Neither position is really correct. Any commuter will tell you that the misfortune of bus breakdowns
and subterranean delays produce a host of difficulties. Those who worry about class absences or tardiness
must take such setbacks in stride; those who suffer
even the slightest sleep inertia must rouse themselves from bed with herculean strength.
Yet when one retracts the squalid confines of a
subway car – when one strips the veneer of monotony from Q46 bus rides – it really isn’t that bad.
My father commuted on the train from Point
Pleasant, New Jersey (nearly-two-and-a-half hours from Manhattan), for 17 years. In the process he
managed to grade papers and organize the teacher’s union (which he was president of) so that when he
got home he could devote his entire time to his family, all the while listening to the soaring arias of Puccini
and Verdi on his Walkman.
Not too bad.
The commute from the Upper West Side to
Queens four times a week used to make me want to jump in front of the downtown “C” train every
morning. Ill-planned return trips found me observing the furthest depths of human poverty imaginable,
permanently burnishing memories in the realm of the unbelievable – of the grotesque and unforgettable.
Yet as this semester has unfolded I have found the commute to be not only a godsend, but a saving
ritual that has prioritized subsequent aspects of my life.
Commuting is a gift, not a punishment. For
those who carefully manage that idle time of
back-and-forth nearly anything is possible. Crack a
textbook and review for the next test; scribble
some notes as prelude to the mammoth research paper due next week; flip through the TORCH and read
this article. An entire domain of untapped time has become infinitely available, one that may be utilized to academic and personal benefit.
Unfortunately, there are exceptions. For those who drive to school – who commute via car or other
personal vehicle long distances to reach this campus,
I say this: Without a doubt, if there is a God, you will
be the first through the gates. Guaranteed.