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Five People You See On The Train

If you come across a bunch of characters on your commute, you will appreciate this...


You know them, because you see them every day.

We hear their music (though they wear earbuds); know their friends’ names (though we try to tune them out); and we even know the towns in which they live. We know this because we’re creatures of habit, and get in the same train cars daily — just as they do — each at our respective stations.

They are commuters — and they are all going to and from New York City, or somewhere along the line. You’ll recognize some below, I hope, immediately.

The Mouthy Businessman

Yes, he’s covalently bonded to his cell, tablet, laptop and beverage (a Soviet-sized coffee). He eagerly awaits a wetwire for his interface, because life on the train without an outlet to charge/ interact with contacts/clients is unthinkable, as he texts, emails, FaceTimes, Skypes, calls…AND has zero regard for all around him while doing it. WiFi is his constitutional right—why ISN’T it available on the train?!?!?! His noise level can be Zeppelin-esque: After five minutes, you know more about how he drives company SEO, what his ROI is, and the slew of corporate acronyms he peppers his conversations with, than where the next stop is. Oh, and his admin is named Janice. Usually.

The Happy T(w)eens

Once, you were like them: young, unobservant of anything but the fact that YOU ARE GOING TO NEW YORK CITY!!!! They’re going in because school’s out (or they’re taking the day off), and they’re saying, “Yolo,” “SMH,” “swag,” “OMJAAAAY,” “OBVI!” “adorbs,” and love to live in the #hashtag realm. They’ll sit in the four- or five-seaters by the door so they can gab face-to-face (and they’re really social: Tweeting, Instagramming, Kik’ing, What’sApping, maybe Snapchatting—God forbid—and texting each other AS they gab). If they’ve a pal or two who couldn’t find a seat, they’ll lean over and talk to the exiled duo, and you, too, share in conversational nothings. This, for you, might be chalked up as sociological research: they talk about boys (often, as young girls, naturally, they’re boy-mad), shopping, school, clothing, and possibly, procuring fake IDs. Preferably, fake IDs that scan.

The Job Candidate

Brooks Brothers—or hopefully, better—hairline-striped blue/gray suit with an understated necktie draped over his crisp, dry-cleaned dress shirt; a light glow of sweat (perhaps) on the forehead; and a printed résumé next to the folded laptop in his briefcase or satchel. This fellow’s nervous, quiet, maybe zoning out with earbuds in, but mindful that he has a job interview in the concrete jungle. You see him; he’s awkward or quiescently worried (but hopeful). His posture tells you he has business to attend to, and is on a quest. For what, you ask? A quest for success.

The Power Woman

Business suits on women command tremendous respect. Six-figure salaries (of course!) match the well-accoutered figures of ladies who ignore what goes on around them, donning city-ready Ferragamo point-toe pumps, close-tailored one-lapel Prada two-piece pantsuits in black, with gemmy Armentas hanging from their earlobes, and the key accessory: a color blast from a Fendi Selleria Adele in poppy red, which holds phone, accessories, makeup, necessaries, and so forth. Such a woman ignores you; and, especially when she dons tastefully chic Cartier or Morgenthal Frederics, you ignore her—once you realize that she hasn’t the slightest interest in the train, except as a daily conveyance to her potent position in the greatest city in the world.

The Zen Commuter

However, amid this sea of human (dis)interest, there’s the still point of the turning locomotive world who IS. IN. THE. ZONE. His—or Her—Zone. For this Master of the Moving Moments on the iron horse, it is a time for gathering thoughts; contemplating the moment itself; reading; seeing; turning down the noise; and simply, Being. You know these people when you encounter them: they live in a state of commutational enlightenment. Call it “Metro-Nirvana,” if you will. Nothing phases them. Having taken the train for so long, these rail-riding gurus know the stops, the bumps, the conductors, and the slowdowns and speedups inherent along the line.

Now, we know other types: Those poor folks standing on a packed train by the doors for 45 minutes; that fellow trying to fit a bike onboard; the (understandably) selfish commuter whose bag and gear are in the middle seat just so no one sits next to him/her; the sympathetic soul who forgot a commuter pass or ticket and realizes, ugh—it’s cash only onboard, and on peak trains, they tack on an extra $4 for the ride.

If the train is about to move on past their stop, they know to push the white button on the ceiling to get the doors back open. They sense the moment (and the “BUNG” sound) when the pantograph (around Pelham) is raised en route, switching the power current. They have their rituals, too, just observe them and learn: when, exactly, they will rise and gather their things, prepared to leave the car, expertly; just how they will hoof it on the gummed-up, well-trod, crowded platforms, on the lower or upper levels; their preparations are always deft, once finally made, deliberately, to deal with the day they face in the city, as they have done time and again, during their years spent on these very same trains.

David Podgurski, a writer for ilovefc.com, commuted for three years to Manhattan as a graduate student, and still is often commuting (at all hours). In addition, he also was a proud employee for Metro-North Commuter Railroad, during the summer of 1993. These experiences made him all too familiar with the cast of characters that play a role in your morning commute.

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