I don't take the prescribed commute.
For these six weeks, I am working in Midtown - at 57th and Broadway. Now, you'd assume I'd get off at Grand Central and walk/subway/bus up to my office. But I actually get off at Harlem (125th St) and take the subway down.
I don't do it because it's cool or for an experience. I don't do it to avoid the crush of stubborn, me-first suits at Grand Central. I really only do it because the combination somehow gets me to work fifteen minutes earlier.
And yet I've realized how...unusual this is. Which it shouldn't be. Harlem-125th Street station is a pretty convenient transfer point to a lot of places: the Upper East Side, Queens, LaGuardia, Columbia. I was getting off and on at 125th pretty much every weekend for a few months to go to Astoria and Jackson Heights.
And yet it is unusual. Because it's Harlem, people will not get off there, even if it means that they'll spend a lot more time in transit. Today, I heard someone talking about how they were volunteering at 116th, but would get off in Grand Central so as not to transfer at Harlem.
Admittedly, Harlem was in a very bad state for a very long time. But the block-and-a-half transfer stretch isn't really dangerous. It's certainly not quiet: there are street vendors and crowds and a group of Caribbean middle-aged ladies perched and talking to passerby...but it's a huge transfer point, and definitely safe during daylight hours. I've never made the transfer at night, because I've never been in a position where it's been more convenient to do that....the city's life is to the south after 8.
But there's some sort of psychological block. And so I guess it means that I will be stared at when I rise as the train crosses the Bronx-Manhattan bridge to make my way to the door.
Getting off at Harlem is not a mindset. It is not really that interesting when you do it, honestly. But it's something of note when many people stare at you when you get off.