It always seemed backwards to me, to go downtown in order to go uptown but maybe there are good reasons to do so, I thought to myself as I passed the exquisitely proportioned Grace Church that dates from 1846 on my way to the 8th St. subway stop. It was about 9:30 in the morning. The NYC rush hour was over. The NYU subway stop wasn’t crowded. I noticed that there were even seats available in the station. My fellow travelers looked to be students and other Greenwich Village residents like myself. Though we were all underground, there was a mood of calm, orderliness and even tranquility, if that can be imagined.
Maybe in my need to do things logically I was missing the point. Four days a week I had been walking over to the Union Square subway stop on 14th Street on my way to Times Square where I work as a NYC tour guide. Union Square is a big, crowded and congested station and crossroads where many different train lines converge. Sometimes I can barely walk through the station without having to dodge and weave around all the people walking so quickly that if I didn’t anticipate their next move, they’d surely bang right into me. There are always performers, religious doomsayers and pan handlers plying their trades and complicating one’s ease of motion in the station.
But just by walking two blocks downtown from where I live, which is in the opposite direction that I need to go, the subway station is a new and different world. It is one that I’d much rather enter. I am more prone to get an empty seat on the train from here too. I step into the train. The doors close behind me. A few curious riders look up at me briefly and return to their cell phones or papers. I watch as a nondescript young woman becomes completely transformed before all your eyes. She applies foundation to her face with a paint brush. She dabs eyeshadow on her eyelids. She then paints liquid eyeliner across both her upper and lower eye very neatly, never missing as the train lurches forward. She adds mascara to her lashes, blush to her cheeks and applies gloss to her lips with yet another brush. A beautiful face emerges. She pulls off her heavy sneakers, slips on three-inch heels, whips off a bulky jacket to reveal a form-fitting dress and half smiles at us as she exits. I feel like applauding. It really was a great performance. Time Square awaits me. With my microphone tucked into my bag, I dash up the steps, ready to tell my New York stories to the hundreds of tourists who are waiting in line across the street.