On the NYC Train

By: Gabriela Yareliz

It’s November. Apple picking is done for the season. The elections came and went, and here we are. Amazing. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, like that girl whose podcast I always listened to, but then she said the same thing every time and would cry in every episode, and I had to take a break because I started to feel like her therapist. I want to share some things with you, but in a different way.

The year is coming to a close. The new year always brings us hope. We have an idea of who we want to be and all we want to do. (Or not…) We end up traveling, spending time with family, and sometimes, this time of the year brings back bad memories.

I want to give you some reminders, and I am going to look around the train and gather lessons for the end of the year from the failing and ever insane NYC subway.

Coming to you from the underground tunnels:


I just saw two 60-something-year-old sisters with faux orange skin, bleach blonde hair and tons of blue eyeshadow. The reminder is to be your best, natural, true self. Not sure if it is because I am getting older, but I feel more and more “right in my skin” (if that’s the expression. Is it? My English-as second-language self is anxiously questioning). What has felt right for me is: Less makeup (only spending like 7 minutes on that); my own skin; supplements until death do us part, and less wired and shaped undergarments. It’s weird. It’s refreshing. Be you. My point is, though, remember that how you project yourself has consequences. These sisters looked stiff and trying way too hard. They got the attention of the subway car, but it was negative attention. Let’s not make life more complicated than it is. You are great. Be you.

“It’s weird. It’s refreshing. Be you.”


There was a man who furiously walked past me, mumbling something to himself. For a minute, I said a prayer that he wouldn’t stab me or throw me on the train tracks. (Sounds dramatic, but I assure you, you would have done the same). The train is the perfect place to find angry people. It just is. To avoid anger, we are all either staring at our phones or the headphones are in as we listen to that podcast of the crying girl (the one I mentioned before), or we are reading our New Yorkers with furious focus, so we can catch up. When the mariachi band interrupts, there is a collective sigh of irritation, a slight smile, and then, we resume. Let’s make a commitment to not ignore each other. It’s fine to have your alone moments— to read and do your thing (I need them). But let’s always be present. Let’s not give up on people, and let’s not think we are alone in the world. Being alone is easy, but there is no growth in easy. Acknowledgement, even with the fear of death, can be all someone is looking for.

“Being alone is easy, but there is no growth in easy.”


Winter is coming. I got away with sheer tights today, but oh man, it’s coming. The black pumps and mules will be put away, and I will live in my boots for the rest of my days (just kidding— just until next July). I see the subway poles and stuff we all touch, and one word comes to mind: Immunity. May we build and protect our immunity from the germs we will all share when we will be coughing on each other, in a month. And let’s build our immunity for the bad and negative thoughts and energy that threaten to invade our minds and souls. Sanitize that.

“Sanitize that.”


You develop the patience of a saint in NYC. I think we New Yorkers think of ourselves as impatient because sometimes our frustration eats us alive inside, but we are actually very patient. There is no other way to navigate and survive. There are masses of people, and sometimes, you get trapped behind the person with the cane going up the stairs or helping the woman with the stroller up the same said stairs. It’s a way of life. You learn to just be like “deep breath.” “Fix it Jesus.” We need more of this patience as our life unfolds. Sometimes, we have to help someone carry his/her burden. Sometimes, we need to go slowly because there is brokenness, but one thing is certain, we make it to our destination.

“Sometimes, we need to go slowly because there is brokenness, but one thing is certain, we make it to our destination.”


Always smell good. Enough said. Dishonesty smells. Be as honest as the notes of Chanel N•5. Bold, beautiful and so timeless. Secrets, double lives, shenanigans— that smells as good as that Walmart imitation fragrance that fades in about twenty minutes. Smell is not something you can hide. Honey, we can all see it and smell it. You are only fooling yourself. When you smell bad, people gag. Same goes for your character.

“When you smell bad, people gag. Same goes for your character.”


I hate when people leave their trash, and then, the subway floor gets sticky or wet. Nothing beats the tsunami of spilled coffee or soda you see making its way down the subway car. Clean up your mess. If you can’t contain the spill and the damage is done, at least apologize to the car and take your empty cup with you. (Literally and figuratively).

“If you can’t contain the spill and the damage is done, at least apologize to the car and take your empty cup with you.”

7.Share moments

Do not come and sit to eat your egg and cheese sandwich next to me at 7:30 AM, on the slowest train in NYC. But yes, we share a lot of moments. We eat breakfast together, put on makeup together, we smile at each other when a cute kid says something adorable in an extremely loud voice, we witness fights and share our expressions as the couple exits the train, we hold the door open for that commuter who looks like he or she will have a breakdown if he/she misses that train (even if we piss off the train conductor), we cry along with the crying girl in the aforementioned podcast, while staring out the train window— we have moments. Make memories. The routine may seem lame, but these can be the most interesting moments that we remember. It’s how we build a life.

“It’s how we build a life.”


Sleep at home. I can’t tell you how many Asian men have fallen asleep on my shoulder (not intentionally) (not sure why they are all Asian— it’s a thing). Sleep is important. We don’t get enough of it. Sleeeeeeeeep.


There are a memorable one or two, but usually, I don’t remember the ads because I ignore them. Block out the noise and everything crying out for your attention. Ignore the noise and remember the cute stuff.


I have been elbowed in the face and hit in the eye, unintentionally (I can only assume as they were strangers) by people taller than me. It happens. People will hurt us. Sometimes, they don’t even realize it. I have had to just keep moving and run to court, even after feeling like I got punched in the eye by a total stranger. You blink back the tears and keep on moving. Nothing can keep you down. (And learn to duck— it’s a good skill to have).

“Nothing can keep you down.”

All right, this is my stop. I am getting off. Until next time, my fellow commuters.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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