When you take a forty-five minute to one hour train ride twice a day as I do, it is good to have something to occupy your time so that you don’t end up staring at the ground or looking at the passengers around you — this is particularly a good idea in a city where the wrong stare can get you attacked.

On my roommate’s advice, I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse book series a few months ago, and thanks to my long commute I have already managed to read every book. There are a few things that I have found to be wonderful reasons to read while on the subway.

For one, I have found that the time goes by a lot faster when I am deeply involved in reading a book. A book with an interesting plot, such as the Sookie Stackhouse books or even the book I most recently finished (“Why We Suck” by Denis Leary) will pull you in and get you thinking about a world outside of the dull one in which you are inhabiting, surrounded by people who want nothing more than for you to get out of their way — they are more important than you.

Books are also an important way for you to get subway beggars not to focus on you so much. Despite repeated warnings from various sources including announcements on the subway telling you not to give any money to people asking for it (suggesting that you instead direct them to the appropriate outreach programs) people still get on trains and ask for money. My brother-in-law taught us a rule that generally seems to be true — the more complicated the story told by a beggar, the more likely that the story is a lie.

Therefore, I need money for lunch is more likely to be true than I need money to buy gas because my wife is sick with the flu even though it is summer outside and I am not actually interested in taking gas that you happen to have in the trunk of your car as cash makes my car work so much better than actual gas. The latter story happened to be told to me when I was living in Seattle and I had a large spare container of gas in my car. I have also had food rejected by people who said that they would take anything. Sometimes people who say they will take anything mean that they will take any amount of money.

I noticed that when I am reading a book and listening to music, it is a lot easier to avoid having to confront someone and tell them that you don’t believe in giving money to people you believe are going to spend it on drugs or alcohol — especially when they hold a sign that says “Why lie? I want to buy alcohol.” Whether you get your books from the library or independent bookstores, think of books as the great escape from the dreary daily commute.


  1. Yesterday, when Janna and I were on the N Train going to Central Park, we were entertained by a Mexican Trio playing two guitars and a squeeze box. They were SO LOUD, but so magnificent. Everyone stopped what they were doing to tip them or applaud or shoot video of them. I have no idea how they were able to play standing upright while holding on to nothing but their instruments. At the next stop, they all got off and crossed the platform to the local to start a whole new performance.

    1. How wonderful, David. I think they practice and practice until they are able to play without falling down.

      Maybe they start by practicing on a non-moving platform and go from there. 🙂

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