Morning time, New York City. I get up at least twice before the alarm. The room is close to the street and the blaring sirens had kept me awake for sometime in the middle of the night. The morning rush and the trash collectors picking up those huge canisters of trash didn’t help either. It was going to be a tiring day. I am up at 7 and was planning to take a call at 8:30 from the room. 7:45 I eat my breakfast – home-made granola and cold milk. The Courtyard has a fridge in the room. I had long decided not to step down to the lobby to grab canned oatmeal or another breakfast at the bistro. After having been on the road for years, I know what you can’t get while traveling is good or great food that doesn’t hurt you in the long run. So, simple granola with nuts and milk – nothing to beat that. As I eat breakfast, I have booted up my Mac and pouring over the emails that have started to creep into my inbox. I make mental notes and get up to do my bed. I don’t like a messy bed even if I am in a hotel. A nice spread of the sheets and that does it. I look out of the window, the view is obstructed by these grisly buildings. Whoever says New York city is a man-made wonder – it is more of a mess. People sleeping in the streets, loads of trash bags by the time it is 7 PM which you have to skirt by walking to dinner or back, people smoking into your face as they race past you not knowing their trail encroaches the privacy of others. And now-a-days, it is the hookah or the cigar or whatever that is, that some take the liberty of showing off, puffing out multiple time every step. The sun barely reaches the ground and makes the December cold feel bleaker.
My 8:30 call gets over – glad I took the call. There is a reason you send minutes after a meeting and that is to remind people what needs to be done next. There are some who pay attention and some who don’t. A 15 minutes refresher helps in course correcting early on in case there was any miss. I put my things together – tuck in my laptop, the charger, the charger for my phone. Make sure both my work and personal phone are with me. Once I had forgotten to zip up my backpack and someone on the train pointed out. Thank God it is America and NYC. Some other places on the planet, and I could have had my laptop sneaked away. By the time I check the room is in order and I have everything it is 9 AM.
I step down to the bistro, pick up a tall coffee and head out. The moment I step out of the door, the energy outside hits me. People scurrying. Wait, I now have to navigate myself through the oncoming stream of people. Should I stick to the right? Oh no, I am almost bumping into those who politely move to the side. I can’t stick to the right or the left, but find my way to the PATH station’s door. A lady is trying to insert her ticket in and it isn’t going. A couple of people are impatiently waiting behind her. They move to another gate only to be second behind another smart-yet-hurrying morning commuter. I get across and then down the flight of 25 steps. Some of the steps edges have fallen off apparently due to the heavy traffic and I need to watch. With coffee in my and looking down, I take my time. Once onto the floor of the steps, it is the passageway to the platform. The 9:07 had just come in and I have to navigate myself zig-zagging through the on-comers. There is no eye contact. There is hardly anyone taking a leisurely walk. In fact, I don’t find anyone conversing with someone else. What happened to life? Going to work should be a joy, right?
Now it is about 9:20. The PATH train to 33rd comes by. It is hard to get onto a car. The crowds are less than Mumbai maybe, but you got to squeeze in. With those huge backpacks, two spaces go for one 🙂 And if he or she turns around, they got to be extra careful not to knock someone off. Not to mention those wanting to get out of the train have to prepare a few extra seconds. I walk by a few cars towards the end. I always have found one where the door space isn’t yet jammed and I manage to get in. I try to make my way to the back, but today it isn’t going to be possible. I hang onto the half a square foot of space barely managing to grip the support ahead of me. I can’t look to either side for I will find someone in very close proximity and it would be embarrassing. So I look down, but how long can I keep looking down. The only other way is up, but I can’t do that either. So I find a spot i.e., gap not occupied by a human being’s face and get my eyes to rest. As we approach Christopher street, the train starts to break and some of us aren’t prepared and they fall a bit over their neighbor. But there is a lot of understanding. Glad to see someone smile despite the discomfort. Four more stops to go and I should be out onto the street. But the rush is not yet over.