I think my favorite part about riding the subway is that you can get things done during your commute. It's boring to just sit on the train, pretending not to stare at the old woman sitting across from you who has a grotesquely large mole on her chin that moves every time she licks her toothless gums.
A lot of people listen to music, try in vain to complete the crossword puzzle from the Sunday's Times, and play Angry Birds on whatever new tablet PC came out this week. You'll see woman painting their faces, nearly taking out their eye balls with a mascara wand as the train jerks around. People sleep, too, quite often with their mouths wide open.
It's funny because I've never been a big reader. I can't get through a book at home. It's too quiet. My mind starts wandering and I end up having to re-read the same paragraph ten times before giving up and watching Mad Men on Netflix. I also read very slowly, which is totally unfair since my brother can read a 400-pager in one afternoon without so much as a potty break.
For some reason, though, I love reading on the train. There's enough noise that my mind can't move away from what's in front of me. I've read more in the past two months than I have in two years. I've been (slowly) working my way through Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Frankenstein by Marry Wollstonecraft Shelly, and Dracula by Bram Stoker. I've successfully completed Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler, On Writing by Steven King, and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It's not much, but like I said, I read at a glacial pace.
Reading now is kind of... my thing. I even got a Kindle, which is possibly the most amazing thing ever, apart from shoe horns and vodcake. I can make the text MASSIVE so that my eyes don't die, I can make notes and e-mail them to myself, and I can read with one hand while standing, which on the subway is hard to do if you have to worry about turning pages, because as soon as you take your hand off that pole the train will slam on brakes and you will do a face plant into a fat man's stomach. Plus it's basically an iPod for books and I love saying "I HAVE TEN THOUSAND BOOKS IN MY PURSE!"
The reason I'm so happy about becoming a bona fide reader is that I believe my generation has become, well, stupid. Reading stimulates the brain and you never stop getting better at it. People used to read for pleasure because there wasn't anything else to do besides knit and play cards. Ever since portable video games and iPhones came along everyone's vocabulary has dwindled and no one seems to understand the importance of spelling out the word "you". And it's a shame, because reading is magical.
The other day I saw a woman on the train reading a book. It was small and old, with yellow pages and a plain black cover. She was on the last page, and I could tell when she read the final line. She smiled and let the book lay open in her lap. She took in a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and looked up at the ceiling while she slowly exhaled. I do that, too, when I finish a book. Especially if it was good. I stare off and let the story continue in my mind. I think about how the character's lives will look in ten years, and imagine myself in their places. I was just involved in the intimate details of a Russian aristocrat's love life, and went on an epic adventure into space, and had tea with dozen mice in the Irish countryside.
Reading takes you places. That's a hell of a lot better than slicing fruit with your finger.