Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Built for Comfort; I Ain't Built for Speed

When Howlin' Wolf sang that he was talking about the relationship between girth and copulation. Not the girth of his virile member (a term I've always been, dare I say, tickled by), but rather his own massive size and weight, the whole Wolf, as it were. When I say it I'm talking about neither sex nor size of any kind.

I'm talking about my morning commute.

Shortly after I started working in the East 50s, frustrated for several months by overcrowded subway cars during my morning commute, I discovered the slow and easy way. It happened on primary day, when I first voted for Obama (Kucinich, who had gotten my primary vote four years earlier, had already withdrawn). My polling place is close to the Union Street R train station in Park Slope, and after I voted I went to that station instead of the 7th Avenue B & Q station. I was thrilled to discover that I could get a seat on the R, at the height of rush hour. As someone who is moderately claustrophobic and has chronic moderate back pain, that seat means a lot to me. It took me about fifteen minutes longer to get to work than by my prior route, but it was well worth the extra time. I was comfortable and relaxed, and by the end of the ride I wasn't a tense, stiff wreck.

In the last couple of weeks I've added an additional component to my commute: my morning cup of Joe. Right by the station the little coffee shop at the Brooklyn Lyceum sells a reasonable brew. So this morning I settled into a seat, pulled out the latest issue of Wired, and read it while I sipped my coffee and listened to some Brazilian music on my MP3 player. A thoroughly civilized commute.

Sometimes I get a less-than-ideal seat the first time around, like in the middle between two people who are really built for comfort, but there's so much turnover on the local that within a couple of stops I get a better seat. The commute also seems to be more predictable. For some reason the sick passenger prefers the express.

It's amazing how much the quality of one's commute affects one's overall attitude. I'm feeling pretty good right now. And I feel sorry for those poor sardines who had to stand all the way on the express.


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