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Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Long Road Home

72nd Street and Broadway
Photo by myself at 72nd and Broadway, on the Upper West Side.

The intersection of Broadway, Amsterdam and West 72nd Street has a grand European vibe.


The other day I did the unthinkable. Let me rephrase: I was not thinking.

I was late to work, so I ran onto the subway without checking the colored circle and letter naming its destination. I found myself on the F instead of the N, which isn't such a tragedy except that it was rather inconvenient.

My solution was to get out at the next stop, climb up the stairs and walk a couple blocks only to climb down the stairs to spend another two bucks for another train. Of course, once I got where I wanted to go, I had to climb up the $@#! stairs again.

There are certain things you wind up doing repeatedly, and sometimes the body keeps doing them without consulting the brain. I wonder if such things happen to those who drive to work? I hope not.

Autopilot is not new to me. I've managed to get on the wrong train several times, winding up in the wrong neighborhood because my body has forgotten that I no longer live on the Upper West Side.

I've wound up going to my old gym, without meaning to. I've trudged through the labyrinthian passages of the Times Square subway station, only to realize minutes later that I missed my train an escalator and two stairways ago. Duh.

I'm reminded of my childhood beliefs - that the radio was piped in from underground, and that cars, driven repeatedly on the same roads, came to know where they were going.

I thought the old white Ford I grew up with knew the twisty turny roads leading home, if only because the turns and dips felt so natural. The car also seemed to pick up speed when we were close to home. I thought if my parents just lifted their hands from the wheel, we'd just keep barreling forward.

Perhaps I was an unwashed white Ford in a past life, or a Mini Cooper in British racing green. In any case, something inanimate without a thought bubble.


penpusher said...

I did the exact same thing. Moved to a new place 12 months ago and sometimes I still went on autopilot and ended up in front of my old apartment!

I guess we're all creatures of habit, hehe

I love this post, it looks really cold in NY now :)

Kitty said...

How funny, PP?
Knowing I'm not the only one makes me feel better. Phew.

I cheated. This photo is from a month ago, but yes, it is chilly here, around 30F.

There is a bunch more of winter yet to get through!

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh yes, I've done it too!

And when I am driving I am often on autopilot (they say you are safer?) and when I get to where I am going I can remember nothing about the journey - it's as if I never drove there. Scary.

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Just Jinny said...

I don't usually end up somewhere that I didn't intend to go. But, I know this town like the back of my hand. I've lived here all my life. So, I sort of zone out when I'm driving. I can go from point A to point B and not remember the drive. I don't have to focus on where I'm going. I know where I am going..with my eyes closed..in my sleep.

Tammy said...

I got a new fridge a while ago and the handle is on the other side, I still keep reaching for the wrong side to open the fridge.

Suzanne said...

Oh yes, it happens to us drivers, too. We are definitely creatures of habit!

Kitty said...

LOL. I love the driving comments and dear Tammy's fridge comment thrown in-between. How funny!!

Well, it'll be our little secret.

I will be really, really careful crossing the street from now on.

Kizz said...

There was this awesome article in the Times a couple of months after 9/11 that was supposed to help explain why everyday things were still taking a lot of extra effort for New Yorkers. It said that the body and the brain learn landmarks (and have done since we were hunters and gatherers) so that we don't have to consciously think about them. When our surroundings and routines are changed by a move or a change to the system it makes everything harder for a long time because that version of muscle memory needs to be rebuilt.

Happens to me all the time.

Kitty said...

Sounds like my kind of article, Kizz. I love reading all that stuff.

I'll have to do a search!

David said...

Going somewhere on autopilot happens to me often. I think I need to start paying more attention to reality instead of what is happening in my head. Though it can be fun at times.

Kitty said...


Welcome, David!