A Suburbanite in the Subway

Uptown? Downtown? Local? Express? Ah…the New York City subway system to the subway neophyte. While I’ve lived fifty miles or less from New York City for almost half a century, I was not one to use the subway system during infrequent visits to the Big Apple. Basically, if I couldn’t walk there from Penn Station, I didn’t go there. I don’t know why I avoided the subway. Perhaps fear of psychopaths such as those depicted on the news or fear of taking the wrong train to the wrong stop and getting completely lost. The latter of which is more likely.

Now that my sons are old enough to be actual travel companions, I realize the value of venturing into the city and teaching them how to get around. I don’t want them to have the same fear as I had. I want more for my children as every parent does. So I bring them into the city quite often. I explain to them that uptown means that the street numbers are higher and downtown are lower. They know that there are clean public bathrooms in the GE Building at Rockefeller Center. They've seen the Naked Cowboy in Times Square and have ridden the ferris wheel in Toys ‘R’ Us.

Lately, I have visited New York City more often than ever before and have become more reliant on the subway. Unfortunately, the number 1 and the number 2 trains cannot take me everywhere I want to go. But I try to take them everywhere. On a recent visit, I learned that I can take the 1 or 2 train to Times Square and then take the shuttle to Grand Central Station. So the next time I brought the boys into the city I attempted to impress them with my subway navigation skills. We arrive at Penn Station, go through the subway turnstile and jump on the 1 train. I tell them it’s only one stop away. The train stops and we are at 28th Street. “Hmmm…this doesn’t seem right. Let’s stay on for another stop.” We continue until Houston Street when I finally realize we are heading downtown and not uptown. I lead my boys out of the subway onto the street and cross over to the uptown entrance where my lack of understanding of how the subway system works affords me the opportunity to pay yet again for our trip.

Hmmm…this doesn’t seem right. Let’s stay on for another stop.

We get back on the 1 train, this time heading in the right direction, stopping again at our original point of entry at Penn Station where I sheepishly announce “only one more stop” and then arrive at the Times Square station where I inform them that we get to switch to another train. Finally, we arrive at Grand Central Terminal- truly Grand in every sense. They were impressed with the architecture, the shopping choices, the beautiful details.

Thanks to having their mother for a tour guide, they will never be able to find it again.

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