Everyone knows of Grand Central Terminal, and if they do not know the name, they know about the famously beautiful train station in the middle of New York that people use for daily travel. Grand Central is a part of the daily life of many New Yorkers. Whether it is part of their morning commute to work or a part of their free time on the weekends, almost every New Yorker will visit Grand Central at least once in their life.
With its restaurants, bars, small shops and markets, Grand Central Terminal is unsurprisingly visited by thousands on a daily basis. It is almost always crowded with families, friends and busy working people off to their daily 9-to-5 jobs. Most of the people in Grand Central are rushing around, trying to catch their train before it leaves, meet the people they are supposed to be meeting or running outside to catch a cab before the waiting lines get too long.
However, I’ve always seen Grand Central in a different light. I grew up in a suburban area in New Jersey and never once took a train in my life until I moved to the city for school. Even now, I work at the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan and travel through Grand Central once a week. Yet, even though it has become a part of my everyday life, and I am constantly bothered by the people who cannot navigate their way through the train station, a part of me is still entranced by it. How can such a hectic, and even at times awful, place be so beautiful?
One Saturday afternoon, a friend and I walked off of the safely guarded Fordham University campus and into the cold city air of the Bronx. We walked to the corner, where the MetroNorth station is located, practically right next to our campus. We bought our tickets, caught the 5:39pm train from the Fordham Metro North stop, and headed to Grand Central Terminal.
We got to Grand Central just after 6pm and walked inside. My friend is a native New Yorker, so naturally, he is not the biggest fan of Grand Central; but thank God I had someone there with me, to drag me around and pull me out of the way of people rushing around. We wandered around Grand Central for almost three hours, stopping in a small toy store, visiting the large market in Grand Central and also getting dinner in the dining concourse. Sometimes, I hate Grand Central, but when I was purely there for my own enjoyment, I didn’t understand how something that seems so terribly frustrating could also be so wonderful.
Since Grand Central is a part of an everyday commute for so many people, it is often overlooked and seen as plain, ordinary, boring or bothersome. However, one can compare the idea of Grand Central as part of the everyday life of a New Yorker to the idea of everyday life as described by Henri Lefebvre in his piece “Work and Leisure in Everyday Life.” Much of this article talks about how major events are recorded in history and studied later and this is how people today learn history. However, Lefebvre criticizes this because he believes that everything must be taken into account in history. One cannot simply understand why certain historical events happened without knowing the everyday life of the time and place where the large event occurred.
Similarly, when people thousands of years from now are studying historical events that are occurring as you are reading this article, they need some background on why these events occurred. Or if they are reading about a historical figure thousands of years from now, they may need to understand that person’s own personal history and everyday life. How can they do that without looking at the simple things that figure did each day, such as take a subway from Grand Central to work?
Yes, Grand Central is probably a huge hassle for many people in their weekly commute. Being part of the commute, Grand Central is often rushed by and swept off into the background. Eventually, large historical events may cover up the train station in future history class; but to explain these events, the “everyday-ness” of the station cannot be forgotten. However, right now, it is still a part of the world and a large part of the working community in New York City.
Grand Central may be a struggle for New Yorkers each day, or it may be bothersome due to people who cannot navigate their way through the terminals. However, thousands of people use these trains; important people, unimportant people, young people, old people, business people, employees, EVERYDAY people.