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Back On Track

First NYC subway ride since March? Here’s what to expect.

March 1st, 2020-- approximately three eons ago. “tHaT bAt ViRuS” was still allllll the way out in China and Italy. We saw other humans’ noses, mouths, and chins and didn’t think twice about it. We saw other humans and didn’t thank God almighty for the opportunity to socialize. We were like children, so painfully naive. *masked sigh*

When the world shuts down, so does public transport.

When the world begins to open up again, slooooooowly rebooting like that dinosaur of a desktop in your attic, so does public transport.

And ho-lee-shit is it horrifying to get back on the train for the first time in four months, not knowing who or how many people will be riding alongside you. Will they be masked? Will they cover their noses, or just their mouths? Will they even cover their mouths at all!? Will the train break down for twenty minutes when you’re one stop from your destination? Will you be trapped in a box of commuters’ carbon dioxide and-- God forbid-- coronavirus?

Only one way to find out.

And it looks different for everyone. Read on for three New Yorkers’ reunions with the good old MTA.

Jessica, age 20

Route: W4-42 (via the E train), 42-59 (A), 59-242 (1). Weekend evening.

Before: Prepared by putting on a long skirt (rather than my short-shorts), gloves, and, of course, my mask. Four bottles of half-empty hand sanitizer in the front pocket of my backpack. Ready to go into the wild.

During: I was carrying two heavy bags but didn’t sit the entire time so I could keep my clothes "clean." Only three people were on the E; maybe ten in my car on the A; at least fifteen were on the 1, with several chin-maskers, and one man completely unmasked. I moved to the next car because the unmasked man kept coming closer to me. In the new car, I was one of 3 women, and all of us were properly masked. NGL it was pretty scary being in a car with the people who weren’t wearing masks. Definitely had to fight the urge not to yell at them. Still figuring out how to do that in a respectful way...

After: It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. Still scrubbed my hands and wiped down my phone at home. Overall not too much different than it would’ve been pre-Corona… besides the masks lolol.

Notes: It was pretty evident which parts of the city are funded more than others… W4 St had thick rubber decals on the floor to enforce distancing; the same ones in the Bronx were like faded stamps.

Social distance markers in Manhattan look quite different from their Bronx counterparts.

Bryan, age 24

Route: Fort Hamilton Pkwy-W4 (F). Weekend morning.

Before: Not too nervous, just prepared. I wore my mask and had a hand sanitizer in my back pocket. Not much else you can do, right?

During: There was a decent amount of people, like, more than I expected. I stood in the corner by the emergency break so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone. New Yorkers already hate sitting next to each other when we don’t have to, Corona or not. So the spaced out seating wasn’t new. What was new was the looks you’d get if you weren’t masked. That was funny. At one point a guy came in, and he wasn’t wearing anything on his face. You could just feel all the glares from the whole car. Don’t be that guy.

After: I got off and when I got to my girlfriend’s I washed my hands thoroughly. This time I really sang Happy Birthday in my head, though. Gotta admit I’d been slacking on the entire 20-second wash lately, but the train gave me a reality check.

Notes: As weird and kind of scary as it was to be on the train again, it was nice to see basically everyone taking precautions. Gotta say I was not expecting that.

Morgan, age 30

Route: 148-14 (3). Weekend afternoon.

Before: Heavy anxiety (lol). Made a plan to keep 6 ft from other people. Psyched myself up to be ready to change seats/cars as soon as a red flag arose-- someone sitting too close, someone coughing/wheezing/being symptomatic, etc.

During: I only sat at the ends of the car so I could be near the door. I didn’t touch anything. I had gloves in my pockets for opening any doors. Had my hand sanitizer (which I def sprayed on a few times just to be safe). And of course the whole time I wore my mask! It was HIGH ANXIETY every time someone got on, but I did manage to relax. It was shockingly quick-- basically no one got on and almost everyone got off at some point. Everyone who did get on seemed to respect keeping a distance. I definitely made a note to put the clothes I was wearing in a special bag and launder ASAP when I got home.

After: Felt so relieved! And… brave? Aware of how dumb it was to both have gone out and to have felt brave. I haven’t been back on the subway since. I went to the park to meet a friend from BK so we could social-distance hang out. I guess I was desperate for a little normalcy and social interaction. I’ve REALLY limited my exposure since.

Notes: I got nervous at one point because two women in scrubs got on (which felt like unfair profiling, but I mean, were they coming FROM the job or heading to it?).

These are just three stories from a sea of thousands of lost little New York fish. Your experience could be nearly identical or wildly different, and you won't have any idea til it happens. But that’s kind of the point with this whole virus-- no one knows what’s going on, much less what’s going to. All we can do is respect ourselves and one another, and the best way to do that? Say it with me: WEAR A GODDAMN MASK.

Happy travels, New York.


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