From the May 21st issue of Hoboken’s Progress:
The other morning, I committed a rookie mistake when it comes to commuting—I got on the wrong PATH train.
I can only blame myself, but instead, I’ll blame my body. Muscle memory is an interesting phenomenon. Like athletes and virtuosos manipulate their bodies to carry out skilled movements without even thinking, the same goes for how my body has learned to function in the mornings before work.
I, for one, am not a morning person. There are not enough words in the English language to describe how violently my body rejects the early hours. And so, I rely heavily on the fact that my body somehow manages to remember the movements required for brushing its teeth, getting dressed, and grabbing its apartment keys without the guidance of an alert brain.
But, even so, this method isn’t foolproof. Case in point, one morning after my body shuffled into the kitchen, it somehow filled a coffee filter with five scoops of coffee, poured five cups of water into the machine, and then switched “On.” It sounds productive, but my hands didn’t place the pot back under the machine. The counter got a healthy dose of caffeine. I got a headache.
Despite similar incidents, it still came as a shock to me when I saw Pavonia-Newport as the first stop,
rather than Christopher St. on my way to work the other morning. The worst part about it is that I feel as if my body and/or mind was trying to tell me that I sat down on a WTC train instead of a 33rd St. one, but I was still too half-asleep to really understand or listen. After clearing the turnstiles and seeing empty seats on the train that arrived on the middle track, I nabbed one. Why I was in such a rush, I’m not sure, since a lot of seats were oddly open for this time of the morning.
That was red flag number one. Red flag number two: I saw another 33rd St. train pull up on the track next to me that began to fill up faster than the one I was on. Squinting at the 33rd St. train, I thought, “Huh. Well, it’s nothing that reading New Moon can’t fix,” as I looked down to become engulfed in my story about werewolves, while my brain kicked the dirt, frustrated at my half-asleep body.
Before I know it, I’m in Jersey City. Not a total crisis—but still—I felt really stupid. Trying to cover how alarmed I was (I was finally awake), I walked off the train casually, nonchalantly looked around to see which track the 33rd St. train stops at, and subtly, walked up and down the stairs to get to the correct platform, and then stood looking bored, as if Pavonia-Newport was my regular station. I came this close to whistling.
Now, more than ever, those signs in the PATH that read, “Stay Alert, Be Aware…” remind me how it’s probably best to switch off my auto-pilot mode, at least after leaving my apartment.