Wandering under the Skylight
Serendipity in travel is what I always find provides the moments, the surprises. I was down in Soho strolling around, wandering through the village. I’d walked from 5th Avenue down through Washington Square along Bleecker into Soho and was thinking, wow, I used to come down here all the time in 70s. I ended up on Spring Street and grabbed coffee at some bar and needed to get uptown. The traffic was looking bad and it was raining – thank goodness I had my 2 dollar umbrella with me. A lovely lady, because I think I looked lost, asked if I needed help and like a lost schoolboy in the rain, I told her, “Mam, I need to get uptown.” She pointed me all the way down Bleecker Street and off I went. Who says New Yorkers aren’t nice?
So here’s what I don’t get about the subway in New York. It’s not intuitive; it’s not an Apple product- it’s more like a Microsoft product. It’s not stylish and it’s not simple and it’s almost barely functional. Getting a ticket is a hassle, scanning isn’t brilliant – it cost me $9 for one ticket because the scan didn’t work on the previous two and there was nobody around to help me. And then I went looking for signs that are everywhere in the London Underground and the Paris metro, and guess what, they don’t exist! You have to ask somebody. Times Square?
And then you jump on the wrong train, not the express train and you realize it’s going to take an hour to get up town, so you jump off and get on the right train, and then you have to peer out of the window to see what station you’re at. There are no maps in the carriages except a tiny one at the very end that you can’t see. So I got off at Grand Central and walked about 5 miles to get across town on another train that takes you to 42nd Street and I have to say that the whole experience was awful. I mean everybody complains about Boston and how it’s a little toy town train, but the subway in NY, honestly, sucks. It’s grimy and overcrowded and hot and unclear. But I made it.
And this is why I love travel. As I came out of the subway, it was still raining and then I was guided by the lights. When you walk in New York you zigzag with the lights and there I came across the most remarkable sight, a show I had been dying to see in London called Skylight was in previews on Broadway with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan and I landed a ticket. Pure and fabulous coincidence that made my day. So thank you subway for delivering me to the not quite right place, and thank you chaotic New York for zigzagging me past a theater I would not have passed if the lights had led me elsewhere.