Adventures in Subway Riding


The train for me to catch on weekends is the 11:31 J train out of Essex Street. If I miss that, the next train comes at 11:47 P.M., a 16-minute wait. To get to that train, I have to get the 11:07 Far Rockaway A train out of the 86th Street CPW station, the one by my job. During the day, I would wait for the B train, which connects with the M train and gets me home in 35 minutes total. But there are no B trains after 10P.M., and there are no B trains at all on the weekends. That means the A to the F to the J. If I’m lucky and make that 11:30 J out of Essex, I can be turning the key in my door by 11:47, just as the next J train is leaving Essex Street.

The lovely Danusia had a hard time wrapping her head around the fact that the MTA has a schedule, and most trains come very close to the appointed time.

Yes, Virginia, there is a schedule.

 At least the A and the J trains do. The F and M trains are a different story. They don’t call the F the “Forever” train for nothing. That’s why even if I’m lucky enough to catch the 11:07 A train, I’m still filled with the anxiety that the F train will be late pulling into West 4th Street, and I will miss the 11:31 J train. Riding the subway is all about anxiety, at least for me.

Will the train come on time? Will it stop in some station inexplicably for 5 or more minutes, assuring I miss the expected train? Will there be a smelly homeless person on board? Aggressive panhandler? A guy that can’t sing? Subway dancers who might kick you in the face while swinging from a pole? A group of drunken teenagers?



The kind of subway dancer I can take.


I could go on, but you get the picture. I can deal with most of that stuff as long as the train comes and leaves on time.

I tried to vary the routine, to sometimes-disastrous results. Thursday night, for example, I hopped on the M-86 bus at Columbus Ave., there’s always one at 10:58 and gets caught at the light just as I’m walking out of the building. Sometimes I catch it, sometimes I don’t. I ride it one stop to CPW and get the A train. Someone once asked why I would ride the bus one stop, and I said “for what I pay for a monthly metro card I’m going to ride as many busses and subways as I can.”

Anyway, Thursday night I caught the bus and I thought, “what if I take the bus to Lexington Ave. and take the IRT down to Chambers Street, where I can catch the J?”

And so I stayed on the bus, enduring a pang of anxiety in my chest as the bus opened its doors at CPW.

“Get off? Stay on?” My heart raced, I forced myself to stay on the bus and not bolt out of the door as it was closing. Be brave, I thought. It might be better.

And I was off on a new adventure.

The bus driver stopped at a green light at Madison Ave., waiting for it to turn red. She was ahead of schedule. I hate when they do that.


“Can’t you wait till after Lexington Ave.?” I wanted to shout. The light changed to green after what seemed like hours, and she slowly gave the bus some gas. We got to Lex and I ran across the street to the downtown 4-5-6 trains. I could hear a local pulling out. I looked up at the time board, wonderful things those timers, and it read “6 to Brooklyn Bridge: 6 minutes. 4 to New Lots: 11 minutes.”

Well, 6 is sooner than 11, and my choice was made. But as I boarded the 6, I thought, the 4 will beat it to Chambers Street, no doubt about it. But I stubbornly stayed on the 6, even as I saw a 4 pulling into the 14 Street station as my 6 was leaving. I should have trusted my instincts and gotten off, I thought.

Of course the 4 passed us somewhere between Astor Place and Bleecker Street.

My 6 finally wheezed into the Brooklyn Bridge stop, and I got out and speed-walked to the J. There was one leaving just as I got to the top of the stairs.

I had better luck with a spur-of the moment adventure last Sunday.

The A train was late, it pulled in at 11:10. I knew there was no chance of getting that 11:31 out of Essex. But when we pulled into 59th Street, a was D pulling in. I got off the A and ran across to the D. I had an Idea. If we didn’t catch up to an F train I would stay on the D to Grand Street, and get out and walk to the Bowery stop on the J train, a two-block walk. If I was lucky I would catch the 11:31 at 11:29, one stop earlier.


When the train pulled into Broadway-Lafayette street, my last chance to connect to the F, I felt the familiar anxious flutter, stay or go. I stayed. I got off at Grand and speed-walked to Delancy Street. I made it to the Bowery stop and heard the train pulling in downstairs. I ran down the stairs and made the train. I looked at my watch, and it was 11:29! Success. I was home by 11:47.


“You’re home early.” Danusia said as I walked through the door.

About xaviertrevino

I like to write, take things apart and put them back together. Also our cat Snookie, turtles, and my lovely wife Danusia.
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2 Responses to Adventures in Subway Riding

  1. janetgzinn says:

    Nicely done. You captured the anxiety and was of traveling by the MTA.

  2. Thanks, Janet! I missed the 11:47 again last night!

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