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Four Years at the Mount

I'm Grateful For...

Wherever this Train Takes Me

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
-Jawaharlal Nehru, First Indian Prime Minister

(11/2016) I recently visited New York City, and found that, although I was in one of the world’s most illustrious cities, a culmination of ordinary people and ordinary experiences made my trip unforgettable. I am thankful for everyday adventures, and for the humorous blunders, curious strangers, and generous loved ones that make life spontaneous. The story below highlights a blend of these attributes and illustrates a snapshot of an "everyday adventure" that augmented my experience.

"Did I just get on the wrong train?" I think to myself. I glance at my ticket and back towards the loudspeaker, which projected the conductor’s ominous next destination: Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia? I’m supposed to be going to New York! Manhattan. Tonight." My eyes dart towards the other passengers, hoping one of them will catch my expression, decipher my novice train riding experience, and assure me of something definite like, "Son, you’re supposed to be on the next train" or "Don’t sweat it, kid. You’re just where you need to be," but no one does.

I rewind the directions the desk clerk gave me at the station. Out the door, left, and section D. I did that, hopefully.

I stop worrying for a moment and consider my encounter with the clerk. I approached her desk -- out of breath from my jog from the parking lot, decked out in sweats, and sporting two bulging backpacks like an oversized turtle shell.

"Hi, has the train left yet…? The one for Manhattan?" I smiled with enthusiastic naivety and she shook her head. "Great. I’d like to print a ticket then please."

"I.D.?" she asked, not looking up from her computer. I felt around my pockets. I had forgotten my wallet in my dorm room. Whoops.

I glanced at my watch. I still had eight whole minutes before the train’s scheduled departed.

"Will a school I.D. work?" I ask.

"If it’s valid," she says with monotonous irritation.

She printed out my ticket and, upon my request, repeated thrice how I should get to the correct platform. Out the main doors, turn left, section D.

My brief flashback ends. "She probably thought I was crazy," I think to myself as the train jolts into motion. "I guess she’ll have a good story to tell: ‘You wouldn’t believe it. This kid at the station tonight…’ Maybe she’ll laughs about our encounter later.

I look out the window and Baltimore blurs away. The moon, headlights, and illuminated office windows scintillate in an otherwise ink black city.

I sink back into my chair and find myself in uncanny composure. "If worst comes to worst, I end up in Philadelphia until I figure out the next train to Manhattan. Philly’s not that bad. The City of Brotherly Love. Great cheesesteaks. Maybe I’ll stay with Colin from high school. I’m pretty sure he goes to school in Philadelphia," I think to myself.

I close my eyes and think of the speech I will have to say to my mom if, in fact, I do end up in the wrong city: "Wow, Mom, I thought I was only in for a trip to New York and would you believe it?! I guess it’s my lucky day! It looks like two cities in one trip. Before I explain, you remember Colin from high school -- he goes to school in Philadelphia, right…?"

I’m exhausted. I let my backpacks slip to the floor, and the train sways me to sleep.

A couple of hours into my trip, I wake up and two new passengers sit adjacent to me. One of the men is bearded and tucks his long, wiry hair into a bun. The other is stout, and sits cross legged. It’s pretty cold outside, but they both wear shorts. They converse rapidly in another language, Arabic, I think.

Within minutes of their conversation, the bearded man rhythmically pats his legs as if they are bongo drums and starts singing Frank Sinatra’s "New York, New York" with a reggae flare. The stout man laughs, and occasionally hums along.

They pull out a travel book titled Discovering New York City. They flip through the pages. One picture shows iconic landmarks: the Empire State Building, another Time Square, and another of the Statue of Liberty. I am most struck, however, by an image of a man – I suppose he’s in Central Park – blowing bubbles into a flock of giddy children. Optimism is a choice, I suppose.

I arrive at New York’s Penn Station and call my sister. She’s thrilled that I’ve arrived and says that she’s in the main concourse.

I come up the escalator, and I immediately spot her in a bright pink rain jacket, surrounded by a flurry of business suits. I jog over to her with the same exuberance that I approached the train clerk with.

An everyday adventure is only just beginning.

Over the course of the next few days, we would talk with people from all over the world, walk for hours on end through the concrete jungle, discover an amazing hole-in-the-wall pizza parlor, and stay up late telling stories. I am so thankful for her generosity and for the culmination of the "everyday adventures" that made my trip extraordinary.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.