Kicking Down the Cobblestones

In a city of fast walkers, I take some pride in being among the fastest. But lately, thanks to an adjustment in my train-hopping commute, I've come across some speedwalking that's startling to behold.

If you get on a Brooklyn-bound 6 train, about 2/3 of the way back, and get off at 59th street, you're let off onto a broad, dimly-lit platform that extends about a hundred feet. At the edge, there's a short staircase descending to the ancient N, R, and W trains.

Every weekday morning, between 6:30 and around 9, you'll see the 6 train's doors open, and dozens of snappily-dressed, well-coiffed men and women emerge. The smart ones will just break into a sprint, right there. The majority will speedwalk with a vigor and determination bordering on maniacal. A few pitiable souls will leisurely stroll out the train doors, only to be brutally elbowed aside by those determined not to miss the next ride to midtown.

The thundering of the speedwalkers' footfalls could easily be mistaken for the rumble of another train. The few children that witness this procession invariably begin to cry. I, too, was horrified and awestruck when I first took this route. But so often in this ambitious town, the transformation from surprised bystander to competitive participant is brief.