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Tag: Metro North

The Secret to a Happier Commute

Rushing through Grand Central Terminal is a tell-tale sign that your early morning hours could have gone better. Here’s what I always do to help ensure my commute to New York City gets off to a smooth start.

The last couple of times I met up with a group of colleagues after work, someone was in desperate need of a battery to charge up one of their digital devices. I was happy to offer a quick fix by loaning them my handy-dandy Anker Power Bank, which I always carry in my work bag.

Now, you might be saying, “Wow! Barrett… you’re so organized.”

Well no, not really.

My well-placed battery back-up solution is simply an example of an organizing process I put in place many years ago for my Metro North train commute to New York City, because I knew I needed it.

Mornings can be Rough
To be fair, commuting can be stressful and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that trying to catch a specific train in the morning can be difficult when you’re also juggling family responsibilities.

All of those variables can create the perfect storm of having to rush through your early morning. And that’s where mistakes get made and forgetfulness bleeds into your experience.

And with hybrid work models, occasional commuting days can be even more challenging, because your morning patterns are not consistent.

It can get pretty crazy.

Plan Ahead
So, to neutralize the morning ‘commuting crazies,’ I realized long ago that I simply had to minimize as many decisions as possible in the early morning and time shift them back to the night before.

  • Choose what you’re going to wear and stage all of your clothes for the next day in an easily accessible place. (Rushing about in search of a matching sock the next morning always feels like amateur hour.)
  • Make sure your work badge/ID is positioned in the exact same spot in your work bag .(That way, you’ll never misplace it again.).
  • Replenish any snacks in your bag that you’ll want to munch on the following the afternoon. (My go-to snack is a mix of almonds, cashews and cranberries.)
  • And of course, pack that portable battery and charging cables for your thirsty tech. (Make sure you don’t forget to charge up your battery after a couple uses!)

What’s for Breakfast?
Breakfast planning is another variable that you should never have to think about in the morning.

If you choose to wait until you get to work, that’s fine, but if you’re fueling up before departure, know exactly what you’re going to do and how long it will take.

Boiling an egg requires eight minutes. Trying to shave off a couple minutes, because you’re rushing will actually take you longer in the end. (Have you ever tried to peel a shell off a partially-cooked egg?)

Keep it Simple
The actual traveling part of a commute can be unpredictable. I can’t help that (though noise-cancelling earbuds on a train are always a joy).

But better preparation can do wonders for your pre-flight checklist as well as the rest of your post-commute day.

Even if you are the most organized human this side of the Milky Way, I think it’s a waste to invest unnecessary brain power on commuting prep when you’re trying to get out the door.

You don’t need a Vulcan mind-meld to help juggle your morning complexities. The secret to a happier commute is obvious. Eliminate the rush by organizing yourself the night before. When you wake up in the morning, there’s nothing left to forget.

Then, you’ve just got to move your body around a bit, as your brain is now free to focus on other challenges in your day ahead. (Just don’t run yourself into any walls!)

Where to Buy a Belt before 9am near Grand Central Terminal

If you forget your belt after leaving for your commute to New York City, all is not lost. Here’s the solution I found within steps of Grand Central.

The fundamentals of dressing oneself properly isn’t a topic that should require much attention. We all know the rules. Sure, we can discuss fashion, but the basics of covering up your birthday suit doesn’t usually require much thought. And that’s sometimes the problem.

It’s when you’re rushing off to work on autopilot and not paying attention that little mistakes can crop up.

  • Mismatched socks
  • A forgotten tie (when jacket and tie were standard wear)
  • Shirt sleeve cuff buttons misaligned into the wrong holes

These little errors can happen to anyone. (I’m certainly guilty of the occasional ‘I dressed myself too quickly’ faux pas.) None of this is catastrophic. But what do you do if you forget a more structurally important item… such as your belt?

I’ve got a friend who recently experienced this problem. Here’s his story.
(Okay… it was me.)

Help! I Forgot my Belt!
No, it wasn’t such a big deal, and yes, I could have gotten through the day with slightly looser pants on my waist without risking a wardrobe malfunction. But I didn’t feel right, and it was bothering me while I sat on my Metro North commuter train.

I figured as I headed to Grand Central Terminal that there must be thousands of ways to solve the problem and still be at my desk by 9am.
Hey, this is New York City!

I thought back to pre-pandemic days when men’s clothing stores in Midtown Manhattan were open early to handle commuter traffic. (My go-to store is usually Charles Tyrwhitt. Their shirts with ‘proper’ collars can’t be beat.)

But on the train ride, as I held my iPhone and Googled the hours of men’s clothing stores near Grand Central Terminal, I was awakened to another painful example of our new normal.

At 8:30am, stores are still closed.

All except for one.

A Lone Outpost in the Center of Everything
It’s the Men’s Wearhouse at 360 Madison Avenue (45th and Madison).

That store opens at 8:30am. (All of their other branches in New York City open at 10am.)

As I walked by at 8:40am, this Men’s Wearhouse actually looked closed. The darkened windows obscured any activity. But as I peered in, I spotted blurry movement. I walked up to the door and pulled.

And the portal opened!

As I entered, I still wasn’t entirely certain the store was actually ready for business. It was empty, save for one salesman at the register.

I walked up and cautiously asked… “belts?”

He pointed to the back without looking up. I continued on.

I’ve Joined the Club
So I quickly found a black belt and brought it back to the salesman.

As he started to ring it up, I suddenly felt this intense need to confess. So I told him my story.

He finally looked directly at me and gently explained that belts are actually their hottest-selling item in the early morning. My story was not so unique after all.

He handed me the receipt and asked if I wanted him to cut off the tags so I could wear the belt out of the store.

I smiled.

Tame your Inner Vecna
I walked out of the Men’s Wearhouse with my new belt around my waist and a feeling of great accomplishment.

Sure, you’ve got to roll with the punches, and if you forget your belt, it’s not the end of the world. Stranger things can happen.

But with the past two and a half years feeling a bit like the upside down, it’s especially sweet when you have the opportunity to take back a little control.

Ode to the Distant Tracks at Grand Central Terminal

As a Metro North commuter to Manhattan, I’ve found certain tracks take more time to walk to than others on my way back to Connecticut. When rushing to catch your ride, you never want that faraway gate. Here’s a poem that tells my story.

Stairway to Tracks 23 and 24

The track to take, you just don’t know.
Your walk is fast. There is no time.
To find your train and claim your seat.
Or lose your spot. Then stand and whine.

The odds get worse if train is Red.
The track it’s on can seal your fate.
Easy to reach or Outer Rim?
This is how you will miss your date.

Upper level gates no hurry.
But basement level spans further.
It’s like moving through Tatooine.
You’ll have to sprint. Feels like murder.

Teens and twenties, easy to reach.
But beware twenty three and four.
You think you’re there. Then more to go.
Two more staircases? Now you roar!

Then there’s eleven on the end.
It feels like you are lost backstage.
Garbage bags and metal shards stacked.
Now you’re walking through the bronze age.

Red transports I take up the coast.
So don’t know what other droids feel.
But where are the good tracks for me?
The trek can feel a bit unreal.

Sure, here I complain and kvetch.
What‘s wrong with a few more minutes?
If that’s a pain, the fault is more.
A track shouldn’t test one’s limits.

Still, it would be nice if we shared.
The good tracks and the naughty ones.
A rotation to split the fun.
And then we would all move our buns.

I expect there is some logic.
For how these Vulcan pods are stashed.
Could change come from just one poem?
Perhaps my high hopes won’t get dashed.

More Odes by Barrett:

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