Dashing to Penn Station

photo-429I had mixed feelings about moving out of NYC in 2011. I believe a lot of work can (and possibly should) be done remotely, but there is something to physical proximity too. Much of the media world is in NYC, and by removing myself from there I was going to reduce the likelihood of chance encounters.

Broadly I think it was the right move. I love much about Pennsylvania. I love being able to run on trails in my neighborhood, and yet still be 20 minutes from a major city with sports teams, an international airport, etc.

The bargain I made was that, on the margin, I would make the effort to go into NYC for things. Even when I lived in NYC, I wasn’t going to much more than one network-y thing per week. That’s about how often I go into the city now for speeches, meetings, parties, etc. I almost always take the train. I work the whole time. I leave 30-35 minutes on the front end to get to 30th Street Station (a bit more at rush hour). When things go well, I can be at something in NYC less than 2 hours and 15 minutes after leaving my house.

The variable in all this, though, is getting on the late trains for the long, sobering trip back. I’ve been able to get my head around going to NYC for evening events, but I always try to come home rather than get a hotel. (This is because about half the time I’m sending a babysitter home, particularly during the week). There is often an 8:00 train, a 9:05 (these are generally the fast ones), and a 10:05 (slow). All of these require trade-offs.

Sometimes I stay until a later train. Last Friday night I took the 10:05, which was delayed, and got in to Philly around 11:45. I was home around 12:10 a.m., and then in bed around 12:45 a.m., which was fairly not-fun when the baby woke up at 5:15. I got him back down, but only until 6 a.m. Then he was up for good. I let my husband sleep until 7:45, at which point I planned to hand the baby over, only then I heard my husband’s alarm go off because…he’d scheduled car service for 8:15 a.m. He was home with a loaner car by 8:30, and I tried to take a nap, but he took the baby outside to go play in the leaves, which is fine, except then the other kids decided they needed a parent, couldn’t find him, and came and woke me up. I took another short nap later in the afternoon when the baby napped, but I felt like I lost most of the day. I had no energy for anything.

The alternative is to dash out of things. If I make the 8:00 train, I can be in bed by about 10:30, which is a very reasonable time to be in bed, even if the next day starts at 5:30. But it’s hard to make the 8:00 train. I did on Sunday night, when I was coming from the upper west side, but barely. I excused myself at 7:20 while my event was still going strong, and then my cab got stuck in traffic in Times Square. We pulled up to Penn Station at 7:54 and I ran to buy my ticket and hop on. I made it — barely. Because an even less fun scenario is that I dash out of something to make the 8:00 train and miss it, and then sit in Penn Station for an hour.

In retrospect in those two scenarios, aiming for the 9:05 sounds smart, though depending on the event, that can involve dashing out too — or sleep deprivation depending on the night (I’ll be in bed around 11:30 — OK if I get to sleep until 6:30, but that’s never guaranteed. If I’m up at 5:30 I’ll be in trouble). I haven’t quite figured out what is the best approach. Leave late and lose big chunks of the next day, or leave early and feel like I spent all this time traveling, but I’m not getting to enjoy the entire event. Maybe there’s a third answer I should be considering.

In other news: The upside of all this train travel is that I’m getting a lot of NaNoWriMo writing time! I hit 40,000 words on Tuesday so I am more than 80 percent of the way to the 50,000 word mark. I am on the home stretch — the last 2.5 miles of the half-marathon, as it were.


11 thoughts on “Dashing to Penn Station

  1. I am always envious of people who can do work on any form of transportation. I have horrible motion sickness so no work for me on anything that moves.

    Glad your NaNoWriMo is going well.

      1. same here. trains, facing forward, are the only mode of transportation on which I can read or work. there is some science behind it, but I forget the details.

  2. Tough call. Not specific to the same settings, I try always to remember that the right time to leave pretty much any event is (a) while I am still having fun (or being productive, or whatever the goal is) and (b) while one or more of the other people there still wants to get to interact with me (i.e. will think, “Oh darn, I wish she hadn’t left so soon.”). Both of which are of course generally arguments for leaving “sooner,” but leave unaddressed the question of how soon is too soon.

  3. I’m terrible at leaving “during”. I’m either the first one excusing myself (sadly, usually to try and squeeze in another competing event) or one of the last out! My Mother used to leave events and tell the host to put my Father out with the bins at the end of the night and I have a big streak of that in me – FOMO for sure!

    That said, 2015 has been my “year of no” when I have tried to regain some life balance. What I learnt this year is I would rather simply say no to “obligation” events than attend for an hour (which basically eats my whole night). That’s been a big step forward for me.

    Like you Laura my primary residence is in the country, so the events I do chose to invest in are now fewer, but I make the absolute most of them. That’s been my option 3 and is working for me so far. 🙂

    1. …and should have added that includes staying in the city which means I can leave an event at midnight, get 8 hours sleep and still be home by 10:30 the next day.

  4. One suggestion for these nights would be to schedule a sitter for the morning so you can get your sleep, and stay later at your event.

  5. Have you considered a live-in nanny? Obv that’s a big step and you have to have the space and finances for it. But given your travel schedule coupled with your husband’s, it seems like it might alleviate some pressure. Specific to this situation it could either allow you to stay over OR leave late but sleep in the next day. H’s suggestion of scheduling a morning sitter could also work. Really depends on how often this comes up.

    1. Oh, and another thought I had — just plan for the next day to be a wash and plan to do stuff you can do even when you are totally knackered (or plan to blow off the day and watch movies). I find what is stressful is planning to get a ton done, then not being able to. If you know you don’t need to it might help, then if you end up unexpectedly having some energy it becomes a bonus!

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