The night was March 20, 2009. I know that because it was the same night Cleveland State upset Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament — more on that later in the post. If you take the story I’m about to tell and this story (from Halloween 2009) together, 2009 probably wasn’t my greatest year. It’s when I turned 28 to 29, and also the year I started dating my wife — so some other things were cool. Here’s the layout of the subway story. (Oh wow, my Pixar’s Up story is from 2009 too, I think. Rough one.)
I was working at ESPN at the time, although in New York City, not in Bristol. March 2009 — my job was good, but not great. I was working on a digital version of ESPN The Magazine. We had no real strategy or concept and — you’ll know this if you’ve ever worked at a predominantly print-based office — all anyone really cared about was the print magazine. We were kind of second-class citizens in a lot of ways. Our direct boss, in fact, spent most of his time editing the front-of-book stuff in the magazine (and going to meetings, naitch). His boss, our major-level boss, was doing a lot with TV — specifically E:60 — back up in Connecticut. So, day-to-day, things could be a little tedious.
I didn’t start dating my girlfriend/wife until August of 2009, so I was still single. I think I had a few “flings” in the February/March period, but nothing substantial.
On Friday nights, my co-workers used to go out and hit happy hour, and often happy hour would last until about 10pm or 11pm and I’d stumble home, get pizza, pass out, wake up Saturday and determine some events to participate in. In the summer of 2009, often this was “Watch Netflix DVDs of The Wire.” At this point (March), I’m not entirely sure what it was. Probably walking around, maybe meeting up with someone, listening to music/watching TV, and probably getting a beer somewhere in Astoria (where I lived).
That’s a long way of saying this: Friday night was pretty much my “hang out with other people” night, although at the time I was a little emotionally conflicted, because these people were more “high-level acquaintances/drinking buddies” and less “good friends.”
Here’s a picture of me from that time in my life, for some context:
Wouldn’t necessarily call it a high point.
On the specific Friday evening in question, the NCAA Tournament was taking place, as I alluded to above. I love the NCAA Tournament. I am still waiting for a 16-seed to beat a 1-seed, but beyond that, I love the drama and the fact that anything can seemingly happen. (Like Duke shitting the bed every year, and then winning the title every fourth or so year.)
Here’s a basic list of the games that were being played on March 20, 2009. I remember Portland State was playing, because I had written an article for work (since removed from the Internet, and likely with good reason) mentioning that Holly Madison went there for two years. Indeed, Portland State was a 13-seed. They ended up losing to Xavier by about 20.
Right after work, I went to Rattle N’ Hum with my friend Max (work kid). We were drinking strong-ABV beers. I remember at some point during this situation, I tweeted @Holly Madison about Portland State’s chances. I can’t find that tweet today, but rest assured, she didn’t respond to it.
We had been at Rattle N’ Hum for a few hours, and drank about 5-6 of these high-ABV jams, and the 7pm games were nearing their end. There was another set of games, and we probably should have just gone our separate ways and gone home, but we decided to head to another bar and keep drinking.
The next bar was Rogue, and about two years later, I would end up working around the corner from this place. (Memories aren’t great, overall.) My friend and I went there and met a couple of my friends and some of his; at this point, we were both sloshed and kind of segmented with the people we knew. (New York in your late 20s is good for a few things, one of them being a very easy ability to drive disparate groups of friends to the same bar quickly.)
I was a total fucking wreck in high school, and of course, a few tables over from me at this bar are kids I knew in HS. Being drunk, and thus garrulous, I start drinking with them and talking to them — making no sense in the process. One of the kids suggests we go outside to a convenience store and get some M&Ms; this seems logical, as it’s now about 10pm or close to it and I haven’t yet eaten. We go get the M&Ms and I scarf them down outside the bar, in the process apologizing for “being a turd” in high school.
Again, wouldn’t necessarily call it a high point.
I was very drunk and now drinking Coronitas, which are basically baby Coronas. At some point, I made a plan with my friends to meet them at 1pm tomorrow for the new set of games — Round of 32 — and I have absolutely no idea how I even conceptualized that plan. Around 11-11:15pm, my friend and I left the bar. She was on antibiotics, so she hadn’t been drinking. We had the same subway line, although I took it to Queens and she got off around 57th and 7th. I drunkenly explained things to her for a few stops, then she got off. This was probably 11:40pm at the latest.
I woke up in a subway car, with no idea where I was. My backpack was on and I was kind of doubled-over, like I had been leaning forward and asleep. I had a cell phone, yes, but I didn’t think to check it for the time. I could see the car I was on was pretty much empty, so I stood up and looked at the little board that tells you the next stop. It was some place I had never heard of.
When I fell asleep, clearly I had been intoxicated, but now I was pretty much jilted right back into sobriety, and I also had this notion that I really had to pee. So when the train stopped, I jumped off, I ran down the stairs, I ran down a few blocks, and I found a place I could duck in and pee. It was some bar, but I wasn’t interested in a drink. I peed and got out.
I looked around and realized I had no idea — literally none — where I was, so I grabbed my phone and looked at the time.
It was about 3:20am.
I did some quick analysis. I had been on subway line that runs Queens — > Manhattan — > Brooklyn. I knew every stop in Queens and I knew every stop in Manhattan, so I had to be in Brooklyn. That was the other end of the line from where I lived.
I vaguely remembered that I had left that bar around 11:00, 11:30 — but it was 3:20am now. That means I likely had ridden the entire length of this train 1-2 times.
I was a little groggy and a bit depressed, but I realized my next step was needing to get home, so I needed to figure out where I was. I called my friend — the one on antibiotics — despite the fact that it was 3:20. She answered, and helped me determine where I was.
Here’s the context:
I had been on the N Train. Here’s the schedule. At the time, I lived off 30th Avenue in Queens. I had woken up on Kings Highway, in Brooklyn.
That’s 39 stops in the other direction.
Again, wasn’t necessarily a high point.
I took a cab, because let’s be honest — I wasn’t getting back on that train again, especially at 3:30am. The cab cost $80 bucks. That’s apparently the approximate low-end price of shame. I got home around 4am. I remember being completely sober at this point and looking up NCAA Tournament scores on my phone. I had recently had a falling-out with a friend from Wake Forest, so I was selfishly glad to see that they lost. I cut the lights, set my alarm for noon (I remembered the meet-up!), and passed out.
Woke up at noon, shook my head, questioned my life briefly, hit the shower, and went to meet my friends. The story was somewhat well-received. Humor did abound. That’s the value of good friends. They can take a train wreck moment in your life and make it seem a little less bad.
The Broader Takeaway
Stuff happens, and people do stupid stuff — especially young people. Does this still happen in my life? Yes and no. I haven’t fallen asleep on a train since then, and I haven’t done anything at this exact level (minus the two links at the top), but I still often question whether I’m really an adult.
I’m still growing up and evolving. Isn’t that basically what human existence is all about?
When I was hanging out with my friends the next day, I was dressed like crap — think of the night I had — and had a backpack on. We went to a couple of bars (don’t worry, I mostly stayed sober) and at one of them, we retold the story above to the bartender. He looked at me and goes, “No wonder people let you sleep on those trains instead of waking you up. They probably thought you were homeless.”