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Friday, February 22, 2013

Ridin The Crazy Train

I've been writing this blog in my head every morning for a few years now. It's time I get this out of my system. Release the rage. Commuters rage, that is. I'd like to take you with me for a moment to the dark side where you will be subjected to the how it feels to commute to work by train five days a week. Granted, I don't live in a huge city by any means. But that doesn't matter. Commuting by train is similar anywhere. So this story could easily be adapted in other geographic locales. Get out your tickets and get ready to ride the crazy train.

A few years ago I resolved that life was too short to be spent in traffic. My car road rage was getting the better of me, turning me into a crotchety, uptight, profanity flinging, horn honking byatch. A perfectly timed commute could turn into a nightmare behind a slow driver, getting stuck behind a damn biker who appears to think the roads were made only for them, an accident leaving traffic suspended for hours, a broken red light, a bus that must stop to pick up riders every few feet, a bridge up to let a ship pass and whatever other incident could be imagined. No matter, it was always something, every morning.

It was obvious that I was nearing the point of no return so I turned in my downtown parking pass and proudly purchased an annual train pass.  Looking forward to my new commute, I planned to drive a mere 5 minutes to the train station where I would catch the train then sit back and peacefully read my book for 40 minutes. Or so I thought. I had no idea I was stepping from one hell hole to another.

I'll just give it to you straight. The train does save me money on gas. I can put 10 bucks in my tank and it lasts 2 weeks. That is good. But that is all that is good. Who could have known that the 7:14am train is really the bitch train. Composed of every commuter who has to be to work by 8am, resolved to press on another day, this train contains the worst of the worst. It's crowded so a seat is rare and elbows jabbed in my sides are plentiful. Bodies are compacted against each other so you can view the nose hairs of the person squished up in your personal space. It reeks of coffee breath, perfume, after shave, body odor, farts, and hairspray. You name it, you can smell it. If the train is delayed, then the phones come out in masses, echoing voices inform bosses of impending lateness and the sighs begin.  The conductors of these trains are just as ruthless. They slam on the brakes, purposefully I am sure, so that all those standing are shoved into each others personal spaces even more. They send argumentative announcements through the stat-icky speakers reprimanding commuters to get in the train quicker and to press in closer to one another so we can fit more people in.  Soon, I could feel my old acidic rage gurgling up my throat like a nasty heartburn. A quick fix to my working hours solved this dilemma. I avoid this train at all costs now. I will not ride it anymore.

Now my train of preference is the 8:14am train. Just an hour later, this train eases up on the chaos of the earlier trains. It's still pretty packed but most everyone shows a lighter side. Usually there is a seat and if not, one usually opens up right away. The conductor likes to let us know as we cross over the bridge what day and time it is as he gives us the weather forecasts and encourages us to take a break from our books to admire the sun or more often the rain clouds. He informs us if the platforms are slick. He kindly explains delays and apologizes if the train is having technical problems. He wishes us all a wonderful day. I can swallow my rage on this train. Most of the time.

For it seems that no matter what train I'm on, I am still subjected to the very worst of the human race. The nastiest of which is the cold and flu season. Somewhere along the line, mothers forgot to teach their children cold and flu etiquette. Caught up in the drama of my latest book, I'll be rudely pulled out of my story when my hair blows off my neck by the person behind me who has just begun a phlemy coughing fit. DID YOUR MOTHER NOT TEACH YOU TO COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH? What is wrong with these people. Then there's the person next to me who needs to blow their nose but won't. Instead they sniffle back a mucousy bubble every 2.2 seconds. WHAT IS WRONG WITH BLOWING YOUR NOSE? GET A KLEENEX FOR F*** SAKE.  Yes, my rage begins to seep through my pores at this point.

Then there are the crazies. Oh yes, the world wouldn't be complete without the crazies. On my right and two seats down is the chick who can't shut up about how many times she's been in jail and how she's gonna kick Susy's ass when she sees her because she stole her cigarettes, not to mention her baby daddy.  Then there's the 13 year old couple making out in the seat in front of me, oblivious to their lip smacking saliva filled kisses and groans. Of course there's always the crazy who gets on the train pissed off at the world who wants to kill us all or convert us because Jesus is coming TODAY!!!  Every now and then the guy next to me falls asleep. His head falls on my shoulder as he snores. A swift elbow to the ribs and he lets out a few curses and goes back to sleep but this time not on me. Most often my quip is with the people who seem to think it's ok to talk on their phones. Loudly. I really don't care to hear about your weekend. What really gets me oozing though are those selfish idiots who sit in one seat then fill the seat next to them with their bag. It's rush hour and I'm sorry but your seat is the only one open so move your bag because I"m sitting there.

It's true, I've learned to tune much of it out. That's what headphones and iTunes were created for right?  Plus the world is full of imbeciles and it's really of no use to pay too much attention to them. The goal was to get rid of the rage. And I know it doesn't sound like it but I've pretty much learned to do that. Commuting on the train requires a strength of character. Not a problem here. I can elbow my way through the crowd and beat anyone to the first free seat. And, the 40 minutes each way a day allows me to pretty much consume a book a week, too. Now that's nothing to complain about coming from an avid reader like myself.

As for train etiquette, I think I have it down. I always use the restroom before boarding the train. I can never predict a 40 minute commute turning into a 2 hour long crawl. I wear deodorant and my fellow passengers should too.  Make 'train friends'. These are people with whom you share only your first name, the general vicinity of where you work, what book you are reading now, and of course, the weather. These are also the people who will save you a seat if they get on the train before you or hold the doors if you are running late, and you for them. It's good to have these commuter friendships.They can get you places.

Viewing humanity from the perspective of a commuter is uncivilized, vulgar and sometimes downright revolting. We are exposed and raw. The best and the worst of our human-ness is depicted in our daily actions as we board and ride the crazy train. I can only wonder what the person next to me has concluded about my character. Must I admit I am one of them?