Trains of Thought

It’s been a while – nearly a month! Had to take a brief hiatus because life just got too crazy; you know how it goes.

“Please, I have so many trains of thought, people call me Grand Central Station”

What’s your geographic paradigm? A paradigm is a way of conceptualizing and processing your thoughts – so in other words, how do you think about your location and where you live?

When I was in Manhattan, I was pleasantly surprised by their grid system. It made it so much easier to navigate the borough and feel like a local. It’s near 18th and 3rd? No problem! I immediately know it’s somewhere on the East side, between Midtown and Downtown. If I knew Manhattan a little better, I’d know that it’s in Gramercy, near the N,R,W and 4,5,6 trains.

But most of the other cities I’ve lived in don’t have that luxury. I grew up in a suburb in the Los Angeles county (626 whatup!), located inland, east of LA (the city). My geographic paradigm at home depends on if the location in question is in my repertoire of cities (Rowland Heights, Diamond Bar, Walnut, Brea, etc.). When it’s close to home, I might adopt a geographic paradigm of streets and shopping centers. When it’s not as familiar, I default to using a paradigm of freeways and ultimately, Google Maps.

What about the metro/subway system? In LA, it’s a bit of a joke. The subway, while straightforward, can also be a bit confusing in NY (entrances may only have uptown trains, different trains on the same colored lines will split into opposite directions, and cancellation/detour notices are primarily analogue). When it comes to the metro, I think of San Francisco.

The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and Muni are a pivotal part of moving people across the bay and complaints aside, play a huge part in daily commutes for many East Bay residents. For the longest time, I actually thought of SF through BART stations (Powell, Embarcadero) rather than the city’s neighborhoods (SoMa, FiDi).

But there is something limiting about this geographic paradigm, because the BART can only take you so far. You’ll never explore the de Young museum at Golden Gate Park or eat Chinese food at SanTung in the Sunset district unless you figure out how to use the Muni (I’ve lived in the East Bay for almost 5 years, and it’s somehow still confusing for me).

Sometimes you’ll get lucky. When I’m in Taiwan, transportation feels like a breeze. The MRT in Taipei is affordable and convenient, and the trains and high speed rail makes it easy to leave Taipei and visit another city, like Hualien (花蓮or Taichung (台中). I’ve heard similar things about other cities in Asia, but have yet to personally experience them.

So I ask again, what’s your geographic paradigm? Have you ever thought about how you think about your commute from one place to another? Just a train of thought.



Illustration by Jenny Yu.


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