How reading almost killed me… and why you should still do it.

12 years ago I was living in Brooklyn with my brother Andrei.

At the time I didn’t know much of anything as I was a fresh immigrant. Thankfully my brother came to US about a year before me and already had a place to live.

I did learn English in school in Belarus but I quickly realized that I had to step up my game if I wanted to communicate or at least understand other people.

Reading was my approach. I always loved to read (thanks to my father) and that’s one of the reasons I remember myself riding on the D train to the city trying to read some local newspaper.

It was around 1pm, well past the rush hour and the subway car was almost empty. There was a guy sitting few rows in front of me and that was about it.

The train stopped and another guy in the bulky jacket got in. He casually passed me and then suddenly pulled something out of the pocket and jumped on the guy sitting up front.

Everything happened so quickly that I literally froze in my seat with the newspaper in my hands…

Apparently, the guy who came in later had a knife and he stubbed his opponent a few times. Based on few words in my English vocabulary, I understood that it was related to some love story as I’ve heard words “girl” and “bitch” multiple times.

Anyway, “the fight” was over pretty quickly and as the blood from the victim’s wounds showed up on the floor, the attacker tried to escape, but the door between the cars was locked! He turned around and rushed to the other end of the car, passing inches from me with the knife still in his hand (I was still sitting in the same spot with the newspaper still frozen to my seat).

I turned my head to see what happens next and noticed a few more people in the back of the car literally paralyzed by the fear (not surprisingly). They started screaming and running away as the guy with the knife approached the back door, but it was locked as well…

The train stopped, must be because someone reported the incident. Honestly, it was like a scene from the movie, only it was real.

The attacker assessed the situation, opened the window threw the knife outside and started pounding on the locked door up front. Shortly after the conductor’s face showed up in the little door window.

Not sure why, but the conductor opened the door just a little bit. Big mistake as the attacker pulled the handle with all of the strength that he had, pushed the conductor aside and was gone behind the door.

I’ve heard police sirens and moments later a few cops passed me from the back with the guns in their hands.

Just like you see in the movies.

It was super quiet for the next few minutes and then through the window, I saw the attacker jump out of the car and run uphill.

I have no idea what happened to the victim or the attacker since then.

So yeah… A little story from my past, should we call it the dark side of public transportation?

Now let’s look at the bright side, shall we? There are always two sides to every coin.

Almost every day I hear people complain about public transportation and I get it. It could be a bit rough during the rush hours, but do you think driving in traffic is a better alternative?

Trust me it’s not. Unless you have a personal driver and a luxury car so you can relax and use the time productively, but then you probably not reading my article anyways.

I live in Long Island and from time to time I have to drive to Brooklyn or Manhatten and I know how it feels to stuck in traffic (which happens almost every other trip by the way). Driving 5 miles an hour with constant stops, watching the bumper in front of you is definitely not fun… Throw in a kid and wife for the ultimate experience.

That’s one of the reasons I literally love my train rides to and from the city. I can relax and read for 40 minutes two times a day!

Thanks to public transportation I read hundreds if not thousands of books over the years, including Game of Thrones (took me about a year to finish all books by the way). I didn’t know that novel was unfinished by the author when I pick it up, so I was pretty upset a year later when I figured it out the hard way.

Here is the interesting observation – when I work from home I never get a chance to read anything… Even though I plan on doing it, there is always something in a way.

There is something magical when you get on the train or bus and you have a predefined window of time. It allows you to zoom out mentally and disconnect from the grid. That was especially true when there was no wifi in the subway.

Today it’s extremely hard to escape from the outside world even for 40 minutes, it gets you even underground…

That’s why I personally practice “no phone” breaks throughout my day, especially when I’m with my family, to intentionally disconnect and truly experience every moment.

All in all, I’m very grateful to MTA and LIRR for all of the knowledge I absorbed over the years and if you are one of those people who hate it, then maybe you are doing it wrong. Maybe you need to shift your perspective a bit.

Next time you board a train or bus, get a book (physical or audio) or download a podcast and start investing in yourself, you will not regret it.

P.S. Just promise me to keep your eyes open at all times, stay alert and you will do great!

Wake up, Neo... The matrix has you...

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