I was 18 when I went to New York City for the first time on my own. I had gone several times before with family and friends, but never alone. The train from Poughkeepsie was mostly empty on the way down. No one to talk to, no hands to hold.
As we pulled in to Grand Central through the tunnels, I had no plan of where I was going or how to get around. Once I walked out of the terminal, the sights and sounds were overwhelming. I had developed a bad habit of losing my wallet, and my first thought was, “What if I lose my wallet in this place? I won’t be able to get home!”
So I decided to buy a bunch of tokens to keep them on my key ring, thinking I’d at least have a token for a subway ride to Grand Central, where I could get the train home. After struggling to put the first token on the ring, I realized I never would be able to get it off.
Eighteen years later, New York City subway tokens are now extinct. I cannot for the life of me get that token off the ring, so it has always served as my memento of that day. I love the looks it gets when people see it (you’d be surprised by how many people have either forgotten about subway tokens or never seen one). It was supposed to take me a few stops but has instead been part of a much longer ride — a little piece of New York that’s held onto me to this day. Not bad for $1.50.