Day and Night On Those Ferry Rails


This is an anecdote I wrote back when I was commuting to college and when learning was in  person. Remote learning is safe and has its advantages, but it also makes us reminisce on an  ordinary routine that now sounds like a great escape. 

Despite being born and living in New York for most of my life, I haven’t been a part of the city’s  scheme up until I began college. Growing up in Brooklyn and then moving to Staten Island  meant that I was “a tourist in my own city” because I rarely ever visited Manhattan. No one  wanted to make the commute and I was too young to go out with friends and hang around that  concrete jungle. Yet I still loved it dearly, and this attachment was a huge factor in deciding  where I wanted to spend the next four years of my educational life. See I live on an avenue that  happens to be located right in the middle of two private colleges: Wagner and St. John’s. The  pressure of applying to these schools and going there was brought up by my father, who thought  it was extremely convenient to take a five-minute walk to college. He wasn’t wrong, but when I  stepped foot on both of these campuses I didn’t get that feeling of belonging or inspiration. That,  and the fact that there was a very small amount of diversity and a large number of student loans.  So when I decided to enroll in Baruch, my father wasn’t too happy, but he supported me and my  options. Yes, a total of three hours of bus, ferry, and train going to and from the city did seem  like a journey, but it was one I was willing to take. 

I have been boarding The Staten Island Ferry every day I have class, and now roughly a year  into college I feel like I could give a credible perspective on my experience on this vessel. The  ship usually has multiple floors, and if it’s the one with the “hurricane deck” then that’s where I  will usually be. The higher up you go, the less crowded it’ll get. Choosing to sit on the very top  floor on the outside of the ferry is a strategy that I have developed. There are New Yorkers like  me there, just inhaling the fresh ocean air. Or occasionally there are tourists waiting to get a good  shot of lady liberty. Sometimes I do as well. I capture the image of the skyline, the lights, the  sunset, the fog, another orange ferry, or even lady liberty herself. Sometimes I even sneak a  picture of the passengers and their silhouettes as they take in the view. 

I like sitting on the outside of the ferry no matter the weather. If it’s sunny or if it’s raining, I  enjoy going up to the railing and taking a deep breath. If it’s too chilly I’ll take a breath and then  go back inside. If it’s hot then I am greeted by a nice wind that cools me off. One of my newly  found favorite things to do is to cross my arms and lean against the rails, close my eyes, unafraid.  Part of me wants to stay aware in case someone decides to push me off, it’s an intrusive thought  that creeps up on me in those moments of freedom. But the ocean breeze brushes that anxiety  away, and I tell myself to let go and just breathe. I look down and observe the water’s foam as  the ship cuts through it. I look straight and watch the waves glitter in the sunlight. I look up and I  see the American flag waving along. I look a little higher and I see a bird freely flying. No  gravity or restrictions holding it down, just its wings occasionally moving as it races the ferry,  dipping itself down to the water and up towards the clouds. 

Sometimes I play soft music on my outdoor venture, taking in the melody and the view.  Sometimes I don’t, and I just hear the water. Overall it relaxes me, and I am sure it relaxes many 

like me because the seats are usually occupied. I like to think that if someone observed me from  afar, they will see me, day and night on those ferry rails.   

I have lived a very similar experience when I rode a ferry in Istanbul. I also sat on the outside,  and I took in the enchanting waters of the Bosphorus that divided the Asian and European parts  of the city. I miss those days now when I look at The Narrows’ water separating Staten Island  from Manhattan. I know that despite these two experiences being worlds apart, they both share  one recollection. The notion that with our busy and fast-paced city lives, we tend to forget to do  the thing that our body involuntarily does to keep us alive. We forget to breathe, and this one  breath that we remember to take on our crossing from ship to harbor helps keep our sanities at  bay.

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