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Lost on the Subway in NYC

My business partner, Patrick, and I went to New York City this past weekend to sit in on some wonderful speakers at the Wisdom 2.0 Mindfulness in America Conference. We listened to talks from people like Jon Kabat-Zinn (who is the Elvis of the Mindful movement), Anderson Cooper, George Mumford, Sharon Salzberg, Arianna Huffington, Andy Puddicombe, and the list goes on. Even Jewel was there to perform her music and drop Mindfulness wisdom on us. Needless to say, we had a blast and learned much about what it means to be Mindful in this digitally-dominant, politically turbulent age. Ironically, the conference was located at The Town Hall, which is in the heart of Times Square. It felt surreal to be in this sensory-overloaded, materialistic, loud, over-stimulating location talking about Mindfulness, but somehow it worked. At The Town Hall, there was a sense of community and friendship that Patrick and I experienced with complete strangers; it was moving and important. We even dropped some North Georgia Mindfulness Project business cards off at the front table in the lobby in hopes some interested souls might pick them up. You must take advantage of a good situation, right?

After a full day of Mindfulness talks, meditations, and interviews, we left The Town Hall completely saturated with what we learned, tired, and happy. Our spouses were at the 9/11 Memorial Museum down in the Financial District of Manhattan so we decided to jump on the subway at Times Square in order to meet them at the Staten Island Ferry station, ride the ferry back to our car, and head out of town. Easy peasy. Thus began our adventure in subway hell.

Please keep in mind we are two highly educated, PhDers. However, we met our match in the form of the NYC subway system. On the first train, we ended up in Brooklyn. The second train took us to Queens, then the Bronx, then back near Times Square. Two hours of this go by when I finally turn to Patrick and ask, “At one point do we just give up and go lay down on a bench in the fetal position?” I literally was imagining an app on my phone I could use to call a human-cargo drone to come pick me up at my location and drop me off at the Staten Island Ferry station.

Two things were definitely against us: first, we could not understand what the conductor was saying when he/she came over the loudspeaker. The New Yorkers seemed to understand perfectly but us out-of-towners were clueless. Secondly, there were no police officers or security guards or subway workers or maintenance men whatsoever on the platform to which we could ask directions. So we were on our own.

After being stuck in subway purgatory for what seemed like an eternity, we both decided to leave the station and hail a cab. I assumed it would be like the movies were we would step out to the curb and a yellow cab would be driving by right at that moment; we’d hail it, climb in, and give the cabbie our destination. Then we would sit back and relax knowing we would be back with our spouses in a matter of minutes. This was just another story in my head that turned out to be untrue. There was not cab in sight. Not a single one. We waited on the street for a couple of minutes and, exasperated, we ducked into a nearby vape shop to ask the guy behind the counter to call a cab for us.

“Oh, you don’t want a cab. You just jump on the train. Much cheaper than a cab!” he told us. We both just looked at each other. Vape guy convinced us to try the subway one more time so, reluctantly, we got back on the train, and this time, it was the right one. After 40 minutes, we were at the Staten Island Ferry station.

A trip that should have taken 20 minutes tops took us 2 and ½ hours. We were tired, hungry, and sweaty. This adventure was a true test of our Mindfulness practices. I can’t say that I was not frustrated by the situation we found ourselves in. But I think Pat and I held it together like champs for the most part. Next year, however, we will be taking Uber.

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