A Good Year
For many different reasons, I ended up coming back to New York shortly after getting back to Saint Paul. In total, I was probably home for 6 weeks. I got restless and I was stubborn. I wasn't done with the gamble after all. I had not yet been satiated with my experience in the city.
So, I came to New York for a second time again without a bicycle.
Up until this previous decade, New York, like many other cities in the US, has been a place where cycling is for diehards, for messengers, or for people without a choice. Besides those people, if you were biking, you were probably putting your bike on top of your car and driving to a place where you could cycle safely and serenely. So, when I came to New York, both the first time or the second time without the bike I had relied on so heavily for transportation, I did what people had done in New York for a century -- go take the subway.
There is an expectation of some predictability with any mode of transportation and some of these predictabilities are more attractive than others -- this is the basis of the choice that people make each morning on their way to the thing that keeps them busy during the week. I think this judgement usually comes down to efficiency. I want to go as fast as possible with the least amount of effort. Cycling takes a good amount of effort and is pretty fast. In Minneapolis, cycling was faster than the bus in almost all cases. Cycling was the clear choice for me in the Twin Cities. In New York, the subway is usually as fast, if not faster than cycling, and does not require the physical rigor. Just about everything else about the subway is not as predictable, which for a recent transplant like me, was a thing to relish in. In sum, it was faster and easier to take the subway in New York than it was to cycle. Even though I still like cycling and wanted to cycle, the judgement that the subway was more efficient and, to the pleasure of my family, safer than cycling was something I couldn't ignore.
The subway is a fascinating place. Millions of people a day stand and sit side by side each other to screech around Gotham in long metal tubes on long metal tracks sometimes all underground, sometimes a few building stories in the air, to get around. Inside these metal tubes, there are sometimes impromptu concerts and dance performances, and sometimes there is not a word spoken at all. Sometimes it is completely empty, but most of the time, there are plenty of other people going places at the same time as you. You are forced to interact and to be present with people that you might never otherwise stand around with in a small room.
Later on in 2012, I got a new job and this turned out to be my ticket to sticking around in New York for a little bit longer. This job required me to be much more stationary than I had been with my pedicabbing job, as I had switched from the saddle of a bicycle to the cushioned seats of a Mercedes. I was now a personal driver and assistant.
The requirements for this new job caused this to quickly become the year when I spent an inordinate amount of time driving between points in Manhattan and elsewhere. I began to know the streets of Manhattan from the other side now -- I was in a position to treat cyclists in the city how I wish to have been treated. Further, I began to connect the whole island together into one contiguous landmass, rather than just the little bits of knowledge I had about the area around a subway station. I was really seeing the city now. While waiting for the next place to drive to, I had plenty of time to gaze and contemplate the city in total. While driving in Manhattan, Long Island, Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Connecticut I was able to view the city and that classic skyline from angles that only the locals get to see. A few times during this year I even called myself a New Yorker, a term I was trying out for size. It still doesn't fit very well, but I am working on it.
By the middle of 2013, I had an apartment with my name on the lease and I was finally feeling like I had climbed to the first safe base camp on the immense mountain of New York. I could setup camp and not worry about tumbling all the way back down. A level of comfort and stability is amazing for peace of mind. Although, I had stopped cycling everyday for work and even though I had gotten a new bike in the Summer, I still didn't cycle to work almost ever. I lived nearest the L Train which is one of the most frequent trains in the system. It took me ~25 minutes to get to work on the train, but ~40 minutes on my bike. The decision whether I was going to bike to work or not had essentially been decided for me.
At the end of 2013, I had left my job as a driver and assistant to take a new job at Squarespace.