A key feature of moving to a city is learning and eventually mastering the subway system. It might take a week or two to figure out what uptown and downtown mean, and several years off your life to figure out the weekend schedule. But once the basics are behind you, you can begin figuring what you can achieve on your 45-minute or more commute -- more often than not, the journey between point A to point B is more meandering than rapid! Here are some ways to fill up the time and disembark at point B with your chin up.
One of the things we always hear about and never discuss in polite society (without sadness) is the lack of reading time in adulthood. Textbooks and readings take over every college student’s life as novels and mysteries get ignored for the most part. But no more! The subway is a great place to catch up on reading and actually meet your reading goals. It even encourages me to read more: at one point, I had a “subway book” and a “home book.”
Listening to podcasts
I love a good educational or history podcast, and it helps block out all the unpleasant aspects of riding the subway (such as the train coming to an abrupt halt or that one person who keeps playing their music loudly) -- and you get to feel productive and worldly, depending on which podcast is your poison.
Playing games on your phone
You will likely see far more people playing Candy Crush on the subway than you ever will in any other realm of your life. Playing games on your phone (or your Switch or electronic gadget of preference) will ensure that other people on the train leave you to your devices, pun intended. I try to solve Sudokus on the train now. It’s wild how many minutes pass in which I don’t know math or numbers or logic, but it’s a great way to make my commute shorter.
Perusing ads or posters
This one might sound a little bland at first glance, but there’s some real gold in the advertisements pasted inside subway cars. Depending on the train line, some brands like Casper leave behind riddles and brain teasers on their ads which are always weirdly satisfying to solve. Some subways also have little poems about the seasons posted on the wall. One of my favorite things to do is to brush up on the subway map if I am standing or sitting near one. When I first moved to New York, I was determined to become the reigning queen of navigation within days of arriving, and just poring over the map on the subway helped a lot.
One of the most popular answers I get when I ask people what they do on their commute is people-watching. Whether you have lived in a city your whole life or arrived two minutes ago, you are always guaranteed encounters with some of the most interesting people in the city (and I promise that you will be trapped with some of those people underground in a train more often than not). Make hay while the sun shines! Take note of what books they are reading or if they are wearing a fascinating hat or T-shirt. Think about hats and T-shirts. Before you know it, you will be at your stop.
Some other all-time winners include listening to music, of course, and napping. But once you find what works for you, you can begin looking forward to riding the subway and using the time to make the best of your commute. Happy travels!
WRITTEN BY Divya Murthy
Besides correcting people’s pronunciations and spellings of her name, this Syracuse graduate enjoys a morning cup of hot South Indian filter coffee and can’t wait for the day she finally spills it on some unlucky commuter on the subway. As a journalism graduate, she is a big fan of the Oxford comma and always looks for it in all the P.G. Wodehouse and Roald Dahl novels she reads. In her free time, she loves blogging about her mildest misfortunes under the pseudonym The Fourth PowerPuff Girl.