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Tag: New York City

Helpful Tips for the Return to your Suburban Train Commute

If you’ve been wondering what it’s going to be like to commute again, here’s what I’ve recently experienced when I resumed my train ride to New York City.

I’ve been working from home for the better part of the past eighteen months. Though it’s surprising how much one is able to accomplish with remote video production technologies, the best video creation moments are often achieved through face-to-face interactions.

Yes, I know we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. But I’m vaccinated, and you can’t really stay in the bubble of your home forever. So, it was inevitable that the time would come for me to resume my train commute from Connecticut. Last week, I returned to my daily treks to New York City on Metro North.

If you’re on the cusp of your own return to the office and are about to restart your daily commute, you may need a few days to get back into the swing of things. That first week can feel like a marathon.

Here are some notes from my own experience.

Don’t Stray from your Pre-Commute Schedule
It’s an obvious point, but you can no longer simply roll out of bed and switch on your computer to begin your work day. You need to give yourself enough time to get presentable and out the door. (Zoom sweatpants don’t usually work in public settings.)

And you’ve got to move quickly. As I’ve said to my eleven-year-old son, the train doesn’t wait for you. You’ve got to be there when it arrives.

Yes, I made it to my train platform in time, but those last few minutes were uncomfortably tight. (On one day, I was running so late that I was forced to leave behind my beautiful bowl of oatmeal mixed with apples, raisins and banana.)

Say Goodbye to your Refrigerator
Speaking of food, if you’ve grown accustomed to your particular morning and afternoon snacks, you’ve now got to pack them. Sure, there’s plenty of food available in New York City, but it can be inconvenient to have to go out and hunt for it, especially when you’re hungry.

Unfortunately, your own fridge isn’t around the corner anymore.

Enjoy the Empty Train Ride
Happily, my usually packed parking lot had plenty of open spots for my car. And the Metro North trains I took were all relatively empty. Middle seats remained unoccupied, and nobody had to stand. Social distancing was easy.

And yes, everyone behaved and wore a mask.

Prepare for More Steps in your Day
Like me, you’ll probably see this as a real benefit. (Sitting in your home office can quickly generate a sedentary existence.)

While more walking is great, you may unexpectedly find yourself a little tired at the end of those first days. (I did.)

It’s simply a change of pace, and you’ve got to get used to it again.

Get More Sleep
Your commute will, of course, cut into your former non-travel free time. You may feel the urge to say up later at night to find that additional hour for ‘me time.’ But I think stealing from sleep is an unsustainable solution. It may seem counterintuitive, but if anything, you’re going to need a little more sleep for a while. That should help your body and mind accommodate your new schedule.

I baked a little more sleep into my rotation and found it really helpful in handling my next day.

Time to Stream!
Commuting on a Metro North train is a relatively comfortable experience. And it’s simple to pull out your smartphone or laptop and pretend that you’ve never left your home office. Or if you want to catch up on your Netflix fix, a train commute can be a perfect time for that.

Yay!

Expect an Adjustment
The reality is the train commute is mostly the same as before the pandemic, except that there aren’t as many people (at least not yet).

The real difference is simply having to get used to it again. It can take a few days.

As you get back to your own future, I recommend that you plan for this adjustment period.

Good luck and be safe!

Feeling Comfortable Yet?

Our cat has no problem relaxing, and even occasionally expresses her feline Zen for my camera. I find her disposition a helpful reminder to take a deep breath every now and again.

These are, no doubt, strange times. Complete with plenty of stress and uncertainty. So, it’s probably a good idea to take a few cues from our companion animals and chill out whenever possible. After all, it is summer.

So whether you’re hanging out in the country side…

Or beginning to get out again in the big city…

I hope you’re finding some time to relax and recharge. My family and I just returned from a little excursion to the Berkshires.

Find your sunshine.

The Indestructible Dining Room Table

Living with this old dining room table has taught me how to be a better parent. Here’s the story.

When I was growing up, my father constantly hounded me not to jump on the living room couch and to stop spilling my milk on the dining room table.

No, my parents didn’t cover everything with plastic, but our New York City apartment wasn’t really designed to accommodate the usual physical energies of a growing boy. Still, I made it through without causing too much damage.

Now, I’ve got my own son. He’s almost eleven, and I find myself on opposite side of the same equation. Like father, like son?

A Fateful Meeting
Many years ago when I lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, I picked up an old and somewhat beat-up dining room table from the curb. It was abandoned there, the table top and legs, just up the street from where I lived, near the Capitol Theatre.

I carried it home, put it together and then took a closer look at what I had dragged in. It wasn’t really in that bad shape, and the craftmanship was solid. It must have been built in the 1940s and lived in someone’s home across a generation or more.

Then, circumstances clearly changed, and it was cast out, waiting for the garbage truck.

But I saved this table and integrated it into my own life. And it’s stayed with me across my journey and into parenthood.

Reflections of Family Life
It’s lasted far beyond my expectations. I figured it would eventually get replaced with a nicer table, but then a funny thing happened to it during our early parenting years.

To borrow a phrase… it took a licking and kept on ticking.

No matter what kind of abuse it took, it had this seemingly magical quality to bounce right back.

  • Pen and crayon marks? No problem.
  • Fork gouge. Not that noticeable.
  • Water spill? The stain somehow evaporated.

Actually, there were so many little marks, the scars simply began to blend together into a dull, well-worn, distressed look. I’m sure the table sported a uniform shine in the previous century, but now, it simply absorbs the daily life of our growing boy with its own muted elegance.

Learning from your Mistakes
I woke up on Saturday morning and began setting the dining room table for breakfast. Sitting in the middle of the table was a science experiment and magic trick of sorts from the previous evening. Our son had created the illusion of dry bits of paper floating inside a Ziploc bag of water. It was a clever design that, of course, used two Ziploc bags.

My wife and I enjoyed our son’s after-dinner illusion, but unfortunately, we all forgot to make sure it was cleaned up and put away.

Sometime overnight, the bag with the water sprung a leak.

So when I walked over to the table in the morning, there was a huge water stain that spanned the entire length of the dining room table.

In many situations, this would be a game-over moment for a piece of wooden furniture. And for me, it should have prompted a response of significant stress.

But it didn’t.

After observing the pool of water, I walked over to the kitchen to retrieve some paper towels, and then I mopped up the mess. I took another look at the massive wet stain, which I knew would mostly disappear when it dried. I shrugged and went about my breakfast prep.

That’s it.

Yes, I later pointed out the water illusion’s structural failure to my son, and I did suggest that he shouldn’t leave aqua experiments lying about.

But compared to other corrective conversations, it was very Zen.

The Real Value of a Dining Room Table
Parenting is a messy business. Growing up is a messy business. Good messy.

I’ve realized it’s just fine for your dining room table to reflect that.

  • A table for science experiments
  • A table for art projects
  • A table for family Zoom chats
  • And yes, sometimes a table to eat on

I expect that some folks might be horrified with my position on dining room table protection, but I’m so happy letting this table be the surface for so many of our family’s home adventures.

And now, it’s clearly become my own little experiment.

I think one day… a few years down the line, we’ll get the table refinished. It’s certainly earned it!

Life Lessons
Yes, my indestructible dining room table has been an invaluable tool across these years. It’s ongoing presence has also taught me not to worry so much about the little nicks and dings… and water stains.

That’s life.

This lesson has helped me to avoid some of the parenting styles I grew up with. And I’m really thankful for that.

I don’t know who left this magic table for me all those years ago. But whoever you are, thank you!

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