Public Transportation Struggles

Based on my experiences in Sydney, I somehow got this crazy idea in my head that I was a master at navigating public transportation. Wrong wrong wrong. Apparently I blocked out the memories of Sydney: the early days. But those memories of my early Sydney clueless-ness came flooding back as I wandered the streets/subway tunnels on my recent trip to NYC.

 Please note how at-ease and in-control I look on trains in Sydney
Not the case on my trip to the Big Apple

Public Transportation Fail #1
Initially I was confident about getting from my friend Ali's dorm to NYC...then I tried to buy my train ticket. I was looking for "Times Square" as a destination on the automated ticket booth, but no such destination existed. This might have had something to do with the fact that I was in the state of New Jersey, not New York. It was all downhill from there. I hopped on the first train that came with plans to buy my ticket on the train instead. A nice conductor approached me about 10 minutes into the ride and asked for my ticket. I just showed him a printout copy of the route Ali had told me to take and offered him $11.50 for my fare. He oh-so-nicely accepted my payment without tacking on a $5 surcharge since I clearly had no idea what I was doing. He also pointed out a few expert city commuters and told me to follow them to my next train. Unfortunately, the city folk my conductor friend had pointed out were so good at navigating through public transit that I lost track of them within seconds of leaving the train. I had to ask two more people at station #2 for directions and somehow made it onto train #2. On board train #2, my luggage and I caused problems trying to fit onto an already full train. A nice stranger had to hold the door open for me as I straddled my luggage, halfway inside and halfway outside. My fellow travelers were not very happy about the draft my luggage and I were letting in. When I arrived at train station #3, I accidentally kicked a man's shoe off while trying to haul my luggage up the stairs (I really need to learn how to pack lighter). I wandered around aimlessly for a while then had to ask a group of cops plus another random stranger for directions.

One train ride later...I was finally in Times Square! Well actually, I was in a train station below Times Square. And I was trapped in a turnstile. The succession of body parts and luggage was as follows: first one bar, then my luggage with my hand clinging to it, then another bar, then the rest of me. I have no idea how I got into this position. I just know that I couldn't get the bar, my body, or my luggage to move. Wonderful. After wriggling around for long enough to draw significant attention to myself, I kicked my suitcase in front of me and fell on top of it. A random stranger helped me up and handed me my bag while saying: "I saw you struggling. Are you OK?" I sheepishly thanked him and tripped over my bag as I started to climb the stairs. I thought this was the homestretch, but somehow I managed to get lost trying to get from 7th Avenue to 8th Avenue. I asked another cop for directions and found my hotel (just 3 blocks from my original starting point--typical) 45 minutes later. 

Total number of people I asked for help: 11
Total travel time: 2 hours
My public transportation confidence is officially gone.

Public Transportation Fail #2
Getting from Rockefeller Plaza to Little Italy: how hard can it be? Harder than you'd think. My three friends and I decided to be thrifty and save money by taking the subway instead of a taxi. Looking back, taking a taxi really would have been a good call. Lauren and I got directions from a friendly mall security guard. He was sitting behind a desk, so we decided he looked important enough and would be able to get us where we needed to go. In fact, we were so confident in our friend that we started discussing how we should have asked for his name so we could write a thank you note to his supervisor. We spoke too soon. The express train that our security guard friend said stopped at Canal Street...didn't stop at Canal Street. We started thinking something might be awry when we went over a bridge.

Becky: "Um...Lauren...are we supposed to go over a body of water? Is that the Brooklyn Bridge?"
Lauren: "I don't know...maybe...I mean, I'm sure we're fine..."

Five stops later, we decided that maybe everything wasn't fine. We got off somewhere in Brooklyn (yes, apparently that WAS the Brooklyn Bridge) and looked totally out of place. Lauren saw a rat the size of her foot and I almost peed my pants when a guy asked us what time it was. Paranoid much? Yes.

Just to give you a visual on our situation, we started close to Times Square by the pink square in the upper left. We got off the train near the green square next to the orange line in the bottom right. We had been trying to get to place where the yellow line splits in two next to the green line (on the Manhattan side of the bridge). Not. Even. Close.

An hour and a half later, we finally found Little Italy. We decided to avoid any futher confusion and had Sayif (who became my new best friend because I told him his name reminded me of Sayid from "Lost") take us home in a taxi.

Public Transportation Fail #3
At this point you're probably thinking, "Really, Becky? You managed to get lost this many times within a span of 4 days? Do you have a brain?" In my defense, this fail was not entirely my fault. Yes, I still had to ask at least five people which trains to get on/where to buy my ticket/when to get off. But, I successfully got to two of my three trains without getting incredibly lost or creating a scene with my luggage. These were both big wins for me. The problem was that my second train was late getting in because we stopped just outside of the station and had to wait for someone on the train in front of us to get ARRESTED before we could pull into the platform. Classy. I arrived at platform F just in time to watch my train pulling out of the station. The girl running alongside the train with her purple houndstooth luggage dragging behind her while banging on the door yelling for the train to stop....that was me. The girl that broke down in tears because she was exhausted, the next train didn't  come for another hour, and she was in the middle of nowhere New Jersey...also me. Not my proudest moment. I sat pitifully whimpering to myself on a bench until Ali came to rescue me. The ultimate embarrassment: I couldn't figure out where the exit to the station was. 

Moral of the story: I'm directionally challenged, emotionally unstable when low on sleep, and a klutz. But hey, I survived! And I still love NYC, despite my inability to navigate its subway system.

 See? When I'm not in transit, NYC and I are the best of friends

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