When commuters come into Manhattan for work, its population of 1.6 million people doubles to about 3 million. During the weekday work hours, the other boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island) empty out. Queens loses about 353,000 people.
353,001 if you count me, a recent addition to the Queens commuter population.
When I’m done with my classes for the day, I go underground and get on the N train with everyone else. I fight for a seat and pull out my book. The train heads North, speeding underneath the city just to the southwest edge of Central Park, where it takes a sharp right across town and goes in super-speed underneath the East River. Finally, the train emerges onto an above-ground platform, winding its way through the taller buildings in Long Island City, the Manhattan skyline in the background. It feels like coming up for air.
These days, the sun is always just starting to set when I get up and out of the city. The interior of the subway car, which seems oppressively lit with fluorescent lights when it’s underground, takes on the purples and blues with the sunset as a backdrop. Sometimes I do my school reading, but lately I’ve been using the commute time to read for fun.
I’ve heard that Astoria, the neighborhood in Queens where I live, has the largest Greek population outside of Greece. I feel some of the Mediterranean vibes when I get off the subway. Down the street from my apartment, people sit outside at a cafe for hours ordering more coffee when they run out, smoking cigarettes, speaking English, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, other languages I can’t recognize.
At the edge of Astoria, by the riverside, is Socrates Sculpture Park. It’s a good place to watch the sunset and think about stuff.