If you’ve ridden any New York subway lately, chances are good that you’ve been held momentarily by a station’s dispatcher; trudged to another stop to grab a different line because your train stopped running altogether; or watched your cell-phone clock tick while seated on an unmoving, delayed train. (If you feel like your commute has gotten worse and worse in recent weeks, you’re not alone.) Jerich Marco Alcantara knows that last feeling better than anyone. He missed his commencement ceremony at Hunter College’s Brookdale campus on Tuesday, thanks to a delay on the E train. Dressed in full regalia, Alcantara was set to receive a degree from the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing. Alcantara told Select All he had opted out of attending the main graduation ceremony at Radio City Music Hall later that same day because students were only allotted two tickets, and he wanted all of his family and friends — some of whom were on the stopped train with him — in attendance. Opting out also meant that getting to the commencement was that much more important to him.
“I was on track to be at my commencement at 9:15 a.m., but the delays altogether ended up taking almost three hours,” Alcantara said. “After 45 minutes, I knew I was already late, but I kept hoping that I’d at least make it to walking the stage.” He didn’t make it, but thanks to some friends and strangers on the train that day, he still got to experience a formal graduation. Sort of. A friend presented Alcantara with a “diploma” via a cell phone, while somebody else on the train blasted “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. Another passenger filmed the makeshift ceremony and posted the video to Facebook.
“If you want a copy of my diploma, turn on your AirDrop,” Alcantara says in the video, followed by a muffled explanation for a few confused passengers about how AirDrop works. “It wasn’t so much an idea, but something that just happened,” he explained of the impromptu ceremony. “Everyone was getting antsy and impatient, so I figured I’d lighten the mood by thanking everyone for coming out. That led to applause, and the rest just followed.” When they finally got above ground, Alcantara said he and his companions “rushed to the commencement to see if we could make it in time, but saw a bunch of people in gowns on the streets,” and knew they were too late. “So I missed the commencement, but after the auditorium cleared out, my close friends threw me my own little graduation,” Alcantara told Select All. Two ceremonies for the price of one very delayed E train. “It was a great time,” he said.
Update, May 31, 2017, at 11:03 a.m.: This post has been updated to include an interview with Jerich Marco Alcantara.