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Tag: Grand Central Terminal

Why Face Masks and AirPods can Make a Dangerous Pair

If you’ve returned to your commute, you may need to consider how to properly arrange what you wear on your face and ears. Here’s why.

I’ve been enjoying my new AirPods 3 on my Metro North commute to Grand Central Terminal.

Not only am I a new AirPods user, but I’m also a new subscriber to Apple Music. (I took advantage of the six-month free trial membership offer I received as part of my AirPods purchase.)

So as you might imagine, my commute has become a more immersive experience of motion with music.

Walking with AirPods
That said, I’ve been a real baby about walking through the streets of New York City while wearing my AirPods. Why? I’m worried that one of my wireless wonders will drop out as I weave my way to work.

I know that’s silly, especially as I pass hundreds of people every day happily sporting their own AirPods.

If you’re wondering, I deliberately did not buy the more securely-fitting AirPods Pro, because I didn’t like the way they felt when I tried on a test pair at the Apple Store a couple years back.

But I’ve been studying the faces I pass, and plenty are not wearing the Pro model.

And I don’t believe there’s an epidemic of people dropping their AirPods on New York sidewalks and lunging about to rescue them.

So, after a couple of weeks on training wheels, I decided it was finally time to do a proper test drive.

Losing my Left AirPod
Of course walking with them in my ears was fine. Until it wasn’t. That’s because there’s one variable that AirPods were not designed to handle.

Face masks.

When I arrived to work and walked out of the elevator, I simultaneously reached up to remove my mask. It’s become something of an automatic gesture that I don’t think about anymore. Plus, I was rushing.

And that’s a mistake.

An AirPod didn’t just drop out. I did better than that. I literally launched one out of my left ear.

My mask’s cord caught the AirPod and transformed into a rubber band catapult.

My AirPod became a little projectile and ricocheted like a pinball onto the marble floor of the elevator hallway. The sound was excruciating.

I lunged after my AirPod as another elevator door was about to open… possibly releasing a crowd of crushing feet. (I had a flashback to that “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” scene where the little antidote bottle was kicked about the dance floor.)

I finally caught up with my AirPod and jammed it back in my ear. (No, I didn’t consider the hygienic consequences.)

I stood up and looked around. The elevator hallway was still vacant.

Nothing to see here.

And then I walked away.

Damaging my AirPod
Of course I tested my naughty AirPod when I arrived at my desk. Thankfully, it worked fine.

But the next morning on my commute, it was completely silent. Yes, it had juice. Was it dead?

In a bit of panic, I researched the problem on my iPhone, and Apple suggested I reconnect my AirPods and charging case to my iPhone. So, I quickly did that Bluetooth reset.

…and my left AirPod came back to life.

Hmmm.

So did I damage my left AirPod? It can’t be a coincidence that it needed to be reconnected the very next day following the ‘incident.’

Well, it’s been working fine for the past couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s out of the woods.

AppleCare to the Rescue
If you sometimes wonder if you need to buy the extended warrantee on your tech, my advice is to always get it when it comes to Apple products. That’s because they’re mostly moving about with you. And life happens.

Yes, of course I bought AppleCare for my new AirPods. I may be clumsy, but I’m not oblivious.

Learning to Adapt
And that’s my cautionary tale. File it under ‘the art of wearing your face mask.’

Sure, it’s a no brainer being more careful when removing a mask while wearing AirPods. Clearly, I just have to master that little maneuver.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the need to wear face masks is going away any time soon.

Five Ways to Enjoy Your Metro North Commute to New York City

If this is a snapshot of your world every weekday morning, you may need a few tips to help you on your commute. Good news…

How hard is the commute into New York City on Metro North? Well, the train experience is not exactly a walk in the park. But there are ways to ‘smooth out’ the trip. If you’re a novice suburban commuter trying to make it to Grand Central Terminal every day, I’ve got five tips that should improve your trek.

#1
Never Buy Your Ticket on the Train
This is rookie-mistake stuff. The conductors charge a significant surcharge to make on-board ticketing especially painful. So plan ahead and keep more money in your pocket! And now with the MTA eTix app for smartphones, you can always buy yourself an e-ticket before the conductor shows up.

#2
Get Used to the Center Seat
If you’re traveling during rush hour, usually only a few seats will be left when you show up. And I guarantee they will be center seats. There is absolutely nothing wrong with politely asking the person sitting in the aisle seat to let you in. Otherwise, you’ll be standing for the entire trip, and how fun is that? I know some may say their personal-space requirements prevent them from squeezing into the center seat. If you’re going to be a regular rush-hour commuter, I’d recommend you try reducing the size of your personal-space bubble. After a while, you’ll find it isn’t as uncomfortable as you’d think.

#3
Expect Weak Cellular Spots Along the Way
Once upon a time, you’d see an ocean of open newspapers during the morning commute. No more. Now, everyone is on a digital device, many of them streaming movies and TV shows. If you don’t have work to do, streaming your favorite content is a great way to spend your time on Metro North. The only challenge you’ll face is the reality that the cellular signal is not evenly strong along the way. (There are multiple 1-bar pockets.) So, you’ll need to rely on buffering to keep your show playing smoothly. That means you shouldn’t randomly jump in and out of watching your content. Once you begin, keep going! If you happen to receive a non-critical text while streaming the last episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix, I highly recommend that you wait to respond until after that end-credits scene is over.

#4
Admire the Great Work the Conductors Do
I’ve watched a variety of Metro North conductors in action across many years. Without exception, each one has brought professionalism and a friendly attitude with every commuter interaction. That doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes tough when they need to be if a commuter gets a little out of line. It’s clear that the conductors are always in charge. That psychological hierarchy maintains the necessary calm for any public transportation commute.

#5
Buy the Best Muffin at Grand Central Terminal
Once you arrive at Grand Central Terminal, I say it’s time to reward yourself! The best breakfast muffin you’ll find is the ‘apple cranberry walnut muffin’ at Magnolia Bakery on the plaza level. It’s simply amazing.

The bakers seem to only cook up one batch of these muffins on any given morning… so you’ve got to show up early to get one. Any time after 9am is a gamble.

Bonus Tip: Maintain a Flexible Mindset
So, after many years as a ‘train warrior,’ I’m not currently commuting into New York City. (Instead, I brave the unpredictable parking lot known as I-95 to Stamford, CT.)
But as much as everyone I know loves to complain about I-95, it’s not really half bad if you expect the hideous traffic and always have a good podcast to listen to while driving.
(I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.”)

I also suggest that you apply the same flexible attitude towards commuting on Metro North to New York City on any given day. Combined with my commuting tips, you could even ‘enjoy’ your train experience!

Good luck!

Why are Amtrak Trains at Grand Central?

Do you ever feel like you’re in a science fiction movie? When I saw this at Grand Central Terminal, I felt like I had entered another dimension…

Last week, I felt like I had entered an alternate reality. It could have been a scene from the TV series, “Fringe.” Or maybe “The Twilight Zone.” Here’s what happened…

I was traveling into New York City on my Metro-North commuter train. Upon our arrival, I stepped onto the platform at Grand Central Terminal and began walking to the track entrance with the crowd. Everyone else was oblivious to ‘it,’ but I clearly spotted an Amtrak train in the station, seemingly tucked away on track 24.

 

 

 

 

 

Something was very wrong with this image.

Why?
Because all Amtrak trains go through Penn Station… not Grand Central. That’s the way it’s always been.

I felt the need to rush upstairs to see if Zeppelins were flying overhead.

Science Fiction or Reality?
Everything else appeared normal. So, I went about my day.

Upon my return, I took a detour back to track 24. Yep, my alternate-reality Amtrak train was still there. But this time, there was more activity around it…I spotted two conductors and an engineer.

 

 

 

 

 

I had to ask. So, I walked up to the engineer.

He looked at me and said, “Are you here for Amtrak?”

I peered back. He seemed normal… human…of this temporal dimension.
So I asked him why this Amtrak train was messing with my reality…

And so he explained…

The Facts
In fact, Amtrak is running some of its trains this summer out of Grand Central due to track maintenance at Penn Station. This particular train was going to Albany.

I thanked the helpful engineer for his explanation and went home… eager to do a fact check on his explanation to confirm he wasn’t from a different universe.
(He wasn’t.)

I did some Googling and (of course) found the story, which reported that this is actually the 2nd summer that Amtrak trains have been diverted to Grand Central (Empire, Ethan Allen Express and Maple Leaf trains).

Huh.

And this type of anomaly also occurred back in 1991.

Good to know.

Pay Attention
It all checked out. There’s no temporal rift. No disturbance of the Force. Everything was as it should be. How silly of me to question the world around me.

So, I turned off my AI…walked downstairs to bed… and lowered the shade. I needed my sleep.

Both moons were full.

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