My parents are gracious enough to let me drive one of their cars, but to get downtown I always use public transportation in order to avoid the outrageous prices of parking. For those of you who are strictly urban dwellers, I applaud you for the inner strength that it takes to face the beast of public transportation day after day. Riding the train provides some excellent stories, but in the present moment of awkwardness it can be a little overwhelming.
Sometimes I like to think of it as a game. 10 points for passing through the gates of hell when avoiding the solicitation of money from homeless people. 20 if it’s a really bad musician. Once you make it on to the platform you must avoid all eye contact with fellow riders. Eye contact means that you are willing to start a conversation, and believe me I am not. If you can avoid the glares and stares of older men then you may make it onto the train car with a nearly perfect streak.
Of course when boarding the train the next obstacle is finding a seat that is the least likely to have been urinated on by a drunk passenger. You want to believe that they clean the seats, and you know, if it makes you sleep better at night then you should keep telling yourself that story. I typically try and choose a seat that is facing the direction of where I’m headed to avoid nausea and because my stop is first I usually get a seat, but the real win is if I can make it to my stop without anyone sitting next to me. Sure, I could put my purse down and be that asshole but eventually someone would tell me to move.
The morning commuters are a bit of a different crowd. We’re all still trying to wake up and enjoy some silence before the day starts. But the after work, rush hour is a whole new game. You can forget about your seat, it is standing room only. You have the professionals, the students, your homeless people, your young families, it is truly a diverse scene on the train. But my biggest pet peeve of all are the ones who sing out loud on the train.
You know how some people don’t like when people sing to them? It is that anxious thought process of not knowing what to do when people sing happy birthday. Most people only have to deal with that once a year, but when you are a frequent rider on public transportation you have to deal with that every day. I’m not talking about the people who are singing to get money. I’m talking about the obnoxious creatures wearing headphones, that don’t give a shit about disturbing those around them.
Today a kid, no older than nine, was rapping to me and dancing. Actually, maybe it wasn’t for me. But he was standing directly across from, and he had just bumped into me. I kept my focus on the ground, wow what a wonderful sticky surface. The other interesting observation is the crowd that boards and gets off at certain stops. The closer you get into the city, the more yuppies and hipsters you see. I feel like a similar pattern rings true for most cities. I live in a pretty diverse city but there are two stops where it goes from a mixture of class and race, to twenty to thirty something white people.
The commute back to my car is always a lot longer than my commute in, and while I do enjoy it for the people watching and the bizarre experiences I always kind of let a sigh of relief out once I get to my car. Of course, then I have to deal with crazy people on the road. It never ends, does it?