Commuter Blues

There’s no better way to take the buzz out of your morning than by having some jackass-in-a-suit—or, potentially, a tourist—fumble at the Metro North/MTA ticket machine when you’re in a hurry. You’ve got to get to your hedge fund in Greenwich, Connecticut, and your train peaces out in four minutes. You’ve done this routine so many times that you know you have exactly enough time to buy your ticket and scroll over to the seat you always sit in before they slam the doors.

But this slow-poke ahead of you is about to make you miss your train, meaning you’ll have to wait a whole hour until the next one. Can’t let that happen. So you’re kind of on the verge of going up to the machine and just typing in all the stuff for him because, at this point, you have all the screens and selections memorized. In order. You don’t even read them, really, you just punch in the info before the machine asks for it because you’ve done this so many times.

You’ve done this so many times you “pre-walk” in the subway to the car that will deposit you at the exact point where you need to be. You’ve done this so many times you know if you don’t leave your house by a certain time, you’ll will miss the train. You’ve done this so many times that there’s no greater feeling than running late but making the train right before it takes off.

Commuting is possibly the most annoying part of living in an urban oasis. The traveling isn’t the worst part—it’s the whole process around it. But in some ways, everybody commutes because people rarely live immediately next door to their workplace or school, no matter where you live. In New York City, it takes at least 30-minutes to get anywhere. Outside of New York, it doesn’t matter whether you’re teleporting from the suburbs of Maryland to DC or Baltimore, from Menlo Park to San Francisco, or from Providence to Boston, the commuter faces impossibly annoying obstacles almost every day. A sampling:

Annoying Obstacle #1: Don’t even think about taking the L train anywhere between Lorimer Street and Manhattan between the hours of 7:30am—10:30am on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Unless you really enjoy having your face buried in some dudes armpit, in which case, get in at Bedford at 9:15am.

Annoying Obstacle #2: Roll into a packed train late, no seats, and have people stare at you like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.” Or, get to your train early, relax, stretch out, read the paper, get comfy. As the train fills up, stare at other people like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.” People are so territorial!

For the past two years I’ve been commuting from Brooklyn to my school up in Connecticut. It’s only a cool 75-miles away, but with Metro North it takes a full 5 days (100 minutes) to get there. I lived in Connecticut for three whole years at the beginning of my program, but I was always coming into “the city” for talks, parties, concerts, internships, whatever. So once I got through with coursework, I figured it was better to just move back to New York full-time—it’s where I’m already from, anyway. I’ve had a ball going back to my roots and everything. But there’s only so much of it one can take!

Commuters do so by choice—it’s expensive and time consuming. They’re either doing it because the job pays a lot, or because the school is fabulous, or because they have a secret lover they get to romp with every time they pop into town. Commuters are a really particular breed, almost like automatons goingthrough the motions just to get to the next step. Your life becomes a rhythm of rushing, taxis, trains, and placelessness.

Thank god, I guess, for smartphones and iPads to take our minds off it. TC mark

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  • Tina Fine

    Someone's metrocard wasn't swiping, he was in a suit and tie, it wasn't a scam, he just didn't have the technique . The train was pulling in, I leaned over and swiped for him. Sure it cost me a ride, but in the early days, I too didn't quite know how to swipe. He was so shocked I just dove in and swiped, I guess the cat got his tongue and he didn't even say thanks. Or maybe he was just an idiot and I shouldn't have helped. But commuters must stick together so I'd probably do it again.

    • Stefan

      That's happened to me! Or sort of. I couldn't get the rhythm of the card swiping so some lady helped me out, although she just swiped my card for me rather than using her own. I felt really stupid, and I've since gotten better at the subway, but yeah I totally understand the stress (from both sides.) And I can at least say that I've never been tripped up by the Metro North machine.

  • http://twitter.com/XXconfessaXX Suuuuuuuu

    Well, where I live, you just need to tap your card and walk in. However, this essay KIND OF captured the feeling of public transport blues. It didn't resonate with me, but I do know how depressing it is to use the public transport, and just stand there, doing nothing but stare at…well, nothing. I'm not the type of person to listen to music using earplugs as most people seem to do nowadays, and I don't have a snazzy phone that can access the Internet (not without costing me a bomb) or with fun games to play on. So, just stand/sit and feel like I'm wasting my days away…
    Annoying Obstacle #2: Roll into a packed train late, no seats, and have people stare at you like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.” Or, get to your train early, relax, stretch out, read the paper, get comfy. As the train fills up, stare at other people like “don’t you even think about sitting next to me, asshole.”
    ^ This part is hilarious and so true. I always hope no one will sit besides me. =P

    • PERFECTCIRCLES

      Get a book motherfucker.

  • PERFECTCIRCLES

    If I'm going to be on the train for more than ten minutes I make a point of sitting next to people, either on the subway or LIRR. One time a guy said “something something motherfucker” to me after I sat next to him and he got up and walked away. I couldn't hear what he was saying because I had headphones so I just smiled but everyone else looked at me, embarrassed for me.

  • http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/32-things-that-will-ruin-your-morning/ 32 Things That Will Ruin Your Morning | Thought Catalog

    […] Getting stuck awkwardly in the subway turnstile, realizing all too late that you didn’t properly swipe your card, and now you’re […]

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    […] Getting stuck awkwardly in the subway turnstile, realizing all too late that you didn’t properly swipe your card, and now you’re […]

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