How To: Get Utterly and Completely Lost Inside the 42nd St Subway Station

Photo Credit: Celine Elliott

Having lived in New York a short time, I don’t yet feel like a total expert on all things NYC. However, if there’s one thing I’ve discovered I’m an expert in as a newbie, it’s getting lost. Most recently, I got utterly and completely lost inside the 42nd St subway station in Times Square. Here’s my step-by-step guide on how I did it, so you too may get utterly and completely lost inside the 42nd St subway station. All you need for this tutorial are:

-Adjacency to the 42nd St subway station

-A Metro Card

-A dumbfounded and confused expression

To begin, you should find yourself in Times Square being helplessly twisted and turned about by a cyclone of tourists outside the Hard Rock Café. Once you manage to untangle yourself from the chaos, accept the challenge of weaving your way through crowds of tourists, suited businessmen and women engrossed in their iPhone screens, and—awww, look, it’s an off-brand costumed Mickey and Minnie Mouse holding hands! Allow yourself a second to take in the sweet moment, and briefly consider snapping a picture to post on Instagram with a clever and humorous caption. Think of all the “likes” you’ll get!

Allow a bump in the shoulder by a passing pedestrian to bring your focus back to your one true mission: getting out of Times Square. This is where the fun* really begins! Wander around trying to find the subway entrance that will take you where you need to go (in this case, downtown.) Once you find a subway entrance for both uptown and downtown trains, descend the stairs with feelings of relief and confidence that you managed to find your way. As you enter the platform and discover signs pointing to different trains and platforms, these feelings will immediately dissolve into sheer confusion and slight panic. This is completely normal and all part of the experience.*

Look carefully at the signs to determine which direction you should go to catch your desired train (in this case, the 1 to South Ferry). Begin following the signs into a wide corridor that branches off into several smaller corridors, with even more signs. Think for a moment about how it almost resembles that old Windows screensaver of the brick wall maze. As you scan the corridors, trying to decide where to go, you will tell yourself to give up and just call an Uber. However upon further consideration, realize that you now have no idea how to exit the station. Consider asking someone for directions, but then stubbornly convince yourself that you know what you’re doing and need no assistance whatsoever. Continue following the signs for the 1 train until you come across a row of turnstiles leading to a subway platform. Quickly extract your Metro Card from your wallet and speed-walk toward a turnstile. Allow a feeling of pride to wash over you, as you congratulate yourself on finding your way to the train by yourself. Lift your card and, seconds before swiping, notice that the trains are, in fact, going uptown at this platform.

Immediately turn and step away from the turnstiles as you try to figure out how you could be so wrong. You followed all the signs that said “1, 2, and 3 trains.” Slowly realize that you weren’t paying attention to the differentiation in downtown and uptown trains, and set out to correct your mistake. As you carefully follow the signs for the downtown trains, definitely shove your Metro Card back into the depths of your wallet. It’s not like you are going to need it later, right**?

Continue following the signs down a dimly lit corridor, and allow relief to once again return, as you emerge in front of the turnstiles for the downtown 1 train. Hurriedly dig through your wallet, blindly feeling for your Metro Card, all while cursing yourself for putting it away in the first place. Finally, swipe your card and race down the stairs, only to find your train speeding away as you reach the platform. Congratulations! You were successful in your attempts at being utterly and completely lost in the 42nd St subway station. Your prize? Waiting 13 minutes for the next train.


*Getting utterly and completely lost


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