If you’re ever riding the New York subway and the conductor says, “this is the last stop,” it’s probably a good idea to get off. I know it’s not the most intuitive thing in the world, but it’s true nonetheless. I had to learn the hard way.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve known that when the dude who rides the train for a living tells everyone to get off, you should go ahead and exit. But the New Yorker inside me—however small—was convinced the train had a few more stops left.
I was exploring around the city one day after work and was riding the 6-train, which runs on the same line as the 4 and 5 trains. The 4 and 5 trains both run down through Manhattan and then over into Brooklyn. Little did I know the 6-train only runs through Manhattan, making a final stop at the Brooklyn Bridge station.
So when I heard the words “This is Brooklyn Bridge. This is the last stop on the train, all passengers must now exit at this time,” I was a little confused.
The small New Yorker inside me was thinking:
This is like my fourth time here. I know this train goes further because the other ones do too. The conductor guy—what does he know? All he has is a thick New York accent and gets paid to ride it around all-day. Someone really needs to get him up to speed on the correct train routes and how we do things up here in the Big Apple. What a newbie!
Life hack: Don’t ever think you know more about subways than a guy with a thick New York accent who rides them around all day. Again it’s counterintuitive, I know. But sometimes you’ve just got to take someone’s word on blind faith.
Unfortunately, the accent wasn’t enough to convince me, so I decided to stay on the train. Again, I heard the words “This is the Brooklyn Bridge station and the final stop on this train. All passengers must exit the train.”
Oh. He actually wants us to get off. I wonder if something’s wrong with the train? Guess I better go ahead and ge….. *Doors close*
I took a quick glance to my left and right and realized that everyone was gone. I looked through the windows at the front and back to see if there were any people left in the other carts. There were none to be found.
So, not panicking just yet, I did what any responsible millennial would do. I pulled out my cell phone. But I immediately noticed two problems. First, there was no cell service (which kinda makes sense when you’re in a tunnel under thick concrete). But second—and even worse— my battery was nearly dead.
Well maybe I can get someone’s attention. Maybe I can wave my hand through the window and get them to open the doo… *Train Starts Moving*
For a second, I thought I was in the clear. I thought the train was going to turn around. But 15 seconds in, the train suddenly stopped. In a dark tunnel. With one passenger still on board. That passenger was me, in case you didn’t know.
Well, this isn’t good. My parents might call later tonight wanting to catch up and they won’t be able to get in touch with me. I doubt the first thing they’ll think is, “It’s ok he’s probably just trapped under tons of concrete and metal. We’ll hear from him eventually.”
I could pull the emergency alarm, but then a bunch of cops with guns may run on and all they’re gonna see is me. That might not be the best idea. Ugh!
Then the downward spiral started.
This is bad. This is really really bad. I’m trapped. This subway may not move again for another two days. Heck, maybe two weeks. I doubt this protein bar in my backpack will last me that long.
I wonder what they’ll put in my obituary? Death by subway? Nah, too vague. People will think I died from eating a 5 dollar footlong. Malnourishment and dehydration from prolonged confinement in an enclosed space is probably more accurate. Or cardiac arrest due to extreme panic. Whatever comes first, I guess.
So what happened? I obviously lived long enough to find some wifi to write and post this blog. How did I get out? I’ll get to that in a minute.
“Stuck on a Subway” Moments
You’ve probably never found yourself locked in a subway in a dark tunnel. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced the same feeling. For college seniors and recent graduates, this entire stage of life can feel like a “stuck on a subway” moment.
The fear of the unknown. The ambiguity of the next stage of life. The transition from school into “the real world.” Unless you’re a robot or possess magical powers that can wish these fears away, I know you can relate. Despite how cool and carefree my Instagram profile makes a whopping 5% of my life look, battling that fear is a real thing for me. And probably you, too.
A quick glance at my profile and you’ll see me traveling to cool places, taking selfies with cool people, and hitting golf balls off the top of cool office buildings. According to Instagram, my life is cool—or “ballin’” as we used to say circa 2006. The college senior with lots of friends, good internships, and is “going places.” That’s supposed to be me. At least that’s what my Instagram account (i.e. my inner pride) wants you to think.
But then there’s reality—the real me. Hitting golf balls off the top of cool buildings, yes, but also lying wide-awake at 2am on a school night worrying about finding the right job after I graduate. Or if I’ll have a hard time building community after school. Or where I’ll move to.
How’d that be for an Instagram post or SnapChat story?
Late night worries and chill! Turn down for what!
We all experience these “stuck on a subway” moments from time to time. It’s never a matter of if. Just when.
So when they do come, how should we respond? Here’s three things I was reminded of whilst freaking out on the subway that night.
1) Listen to wise counsel.
I think one of the best ways to prepare for a major life transition or decision is to seek out wisdom from people who you know and trust—people who have been where you are. Listen to the “train conductors” in your life. Whether spiritual, career, family, health, you name it. When they tell you to get off the train, hop off. If they encourage you to get on, climb aboard. If I had listened to the train conductor from the beginning, I would have never gotten stuck.
2) Notice the downward spiral, and respond with truth.
Tim Keller says there’s a big difference between “listening to yourself” and “talking to yourself.” Often when we “listen to ourself,” we let fear paralyze us. We let fear and the downward spiral run roughshod over us. Talking to ourself is different. It’s taking ourself in hand and speaking the truth. As a Christian, it’s remembering all that we have through Christ’s blood shed for us.
3) Ride with community.
Life’s better when you’re rollin’ deep. I should probably tweet that. I bet it’d go viral and end up on a poster for a mega bus somewhere. But seriously, community makes navigating unknown waters a lot less scary and a lot more fun.
When I lived in New York this past summer, the two community groups I was part of made an extraordinary difference in helping me enjoy living in a new place. It made the city feel like a fun adventure, as opposed to a scary jungle filled with lions and tigers and bears oh my. No matter where you find yourself, always be pursuing authentic community.
Ok, back to the subway.
How did I end up getting out? Simple. I was never actually stuck. After 5 minutes, the train turned around and I got off.
I’m sorry if that was anticlimactic. Maybe you hoped I’d say, “I pried the doors open with my bare hands, scaled the tunnel walls for 2 miles before leaping across a 10-foot chasm onto a platform where I fended off two people trying to mug me and then used my almost-dead phone to build a radio receiver that alerted the authorities to my location and was safely escorted away on a hover-board.” I wish my life was that ballin’.
Seek wise counsel, respond with truth, and always pursue community. We just might realize that we were never stuck to begin with.