Penn Station


This billboard now hangs above 7th Avenue, promoting some TV show about the witness protection program. It’s also promoting indigestion.

Wrong. Just … wrong.

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I figured out a few years ago that I’d get to work a full five minutes earlier every morning if I were an attractive woman.

Instead of waiting to get off the train when it pulls into Penn Station, and waiting in line to go up the stairs from the platform to the main level, and waiting in line to walk up the stairs to leave Penn Station, and waiting my turn to enter the building where I work, and getting onto the elevator last, I’d have a clear passage from start to finish as the other passengers stand aside and let me through first. It’s as if the male commuters think that the act of letting the hot woman through will be, in her eyes, so chivalrous that she’ll be immediately smitten and compelled to offer her phone number (or something much more exciting). If it wasn’t making me late for work, it’d be amusing to watch men so predictably part like the Red Sea. Hot women are like Moses.

The photo, by the by, is SI Swimsuit cover model Bar Rafaeli. Not that she takes public transportation much these days, but if she did, it’s safe to assume she’d have a nice clear path out of the station.

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I LOVE figuring out new little lifehacks like that to make my commute/day/life that tiny bit better. In fact, it’s fair to say that lifehacks are something of a hobby of mine. I don’t mean Lifehacker as in the tech-oriented Web site, I mean real life’s little shortcuts, tricks and tips—cheat codes—that make everyday life a little easier, cheaper, better.

Every New Yorker, whether they realize it or not, knows plenty of lifehacks specifically applicable to the City—how to get a cab faster, how to find sample sales, where the best/cheapest coffee cart is, etc. I’ll be sharing some of mine here from time to time, including this one (my newest):

I recently made a small change to my commute that’s made a big difference to my peace of mind: instead of walking east from Penn Station via 32nd Street every morning, I now take 34th Street. It’s a completely counterintuitive route to my office, because it’s less direct than 32nd and it’s extremely crowded and it’s Tourist Boulevard, which means that it’s not merely crowded but crowded with people handing out useless things like free crappy newspapers and flyers for interchangeable tuna avocado wrap–heavy lunch places, and crowded with small groups of people who are all together and thus moving very slowly and impossible to get around and who suddenly stop short to stare at a store or take a free crappy newspaper and then make a sharp right turn and, just as you’re finally getting around them, one of them sticks out an arm in full wingspan mode to make the universal “I think it’s this way” gesture of mildly disoriented sightseers.

[Deep breath.]

But it’s still better than taking 32nd Street, because:

1) it’s cleaner;

2) it’s prettier;

3) it’s got wider sidewalks which, despite being filled with more people, are actually less full;

4) the traffic lights are timed better for my natural walking speed (on 32nd, I have to jog the last 10 yards of every avenue to make the lights).

That said, on the way back to Penn every evening I still take dirty, ugly, crowded ole’ 32nd Street, because, like I mentioned, it’s more direct, and the foot traffic on 34th is much slower at night thanks to a higher percentage of tourists. Scenery be damned, I ain’t missing my train home.

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Just got this alert from the MTA:

“Due to an overhead catenary problem in one of Amtrak’s east River tunnels, LIRR customers are advised to anticipate possible delays up to 30 minutes on trains out of Penn Station during the evening rush hour as well as some canceled trains.  Customers should listen for announcements since there will be track changes during the evening rush hour.”

You had me at “overhead catenary problem.”

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As Gene Kelly, Frank Sintra, and Third Guy famously sang, New York, New York, is a helluva town. I was born here, grew up here, and, despite having moved to the suburbs a few years ago, still consider myself very much a New Yorker. There have been countless songs, books, stories, plays, and poems written about the greatness that is New York City, but none of them mention the person I saw this morning outside Penn Station wearing a giant red tomato costume. That’s what I’ll be doing: showing you the sites and sounds of New York not in the form of tourist spots and landmarks but in the form of the crazy/fun/unusual/annoying/ridiculous/sublime things I see here every day. I hope you enjoy the tour.

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