In Transit

Examining the art of commuting



©Bim/Istockphoto.com

Living in Connecticut and working in New York City, I’m a devoted Metro North commuter. When the day comes that I cease being a commuter, I might have to join a support group to help me through life without the transitions. Commuting is my psychic punctuation, separating my work life and home life like long dashes.

My flirtation with Fairfield County began with a weekend home in Silvermine, Norwalk, where I lived full-time for only a few months when I was between apartments. I got serious with commuting after I found myself working close to Grand Central, and living with the loudest golden retriever puppy on the planet, the 13-week-old Chase. She was not a New York City dog, to put it mildly.

Suddenly, the thought of having all my shoes, handbags, and workout gear under one roof made immense sense. I’d spent years hauling suitcases and retrievers from Manhattan to Woodstock, New York, in the name of relaxation. Finally the illogic of driving 200 miles every weekend in order to chill dawned on me.

I thought a move to Connecticut would be so romantic and peaceful—ha! At first I found Silvermine bucolic, and I thought of my new home bordering the Silvermine Golf Club as “the country,” albeit less rural than the nine acres in Woodstock I’d traded away and just a blink from Metro North. Everyone I knew in Connecticut snickered when I talked about the country, because they saw what I didn’t yet: I had joined the commuter class. How the hell did I become a suburban dweller whose daily schlep included a drive, a train ride, and a speed walk up Madison Avenue?

The origins of the word commuter aren’t particularly glamorous. In the early days of rail travel, in the 1840s, people who journeyed regularly from the suburbs into the city paid reduced, or “commuted,” fares, which allowed them to repeat the same trip as often as needed during a set period. The longer the time window, the lower the daily rate. So frugality, practicality, repetition, and drudgery were at the heart of commuting at the beginning.

Now I live in North Stamford, and my commute—when Metro North fully cooperates—is about 100 minutes each way. (That assumes I arrive at the train station early enough to find a parking spot; who knew it would be as hard to score a parking spot as acceptance to Brown or a job at Chiat\Day back in the 1990s, when my agency alma mater was “Agency of the Century”?) I don’t commute on Fridays, but I still spend more than 800 minutes each week in transit. That’s more than 13 hours per week of being a dash, bumpering between home and work, work and home.

It could be worse: I still remember a 2004 article in The Guardian called “Le Commuter Belt” about the 10,000 Brits living in or near Calais, France, whose daily journey to work entails a passport and a train ride through the Chunnel or a ferry trip between shores. The ferry is actually faster than my quickest express train and decidedly more exotic, but I feel sheepish enough about not having a 212 phone number. I couldn’t handle having my long dashes connect me with a foreign country. I have had some commutes to kill for: a 20-minute walk through Chinatown, from Ludlow to Hudson in 2001-03, and a 10-minute tram from Amsterdam Zuid to the Heineken Building in the mid-1990s. Genuine cultural experiences—the stuff hipster life is, or rather was, made of.

Commuting undoubtedly isn’t what most people have in mind when they say that life is journey, but it is for me. In the last four years, I’ve become an unhappy addict to these transitions. Some people smoke, drink, or go overboard with religion, but my addictions are green tea, hot and sour soup, and my managed bumpers between interactions. I take my seat on that tin can bullet-speeding or slowly trundling (I am not even adverse to the locals!) toward New York City, and the transformation begins. I become Work Marian, Driven Marian, consumed by commerce, agency life, and my professional friends. Then in the evening, whether it’s 6 or 7 or 8 or even 9, I make the transition in reverse, sometimes narrowly averting a minor meltdown, decompressing into Everyday Marian, thinking about Fresh Direct deliveries, household budgeting and bill paying, dry cleaning, and dinner parties.

Other people talk to one another or read newspapers, but I mostly talk myself into and out of city mode. I rehash the day’s events, reformulate my take on the universe, and edit my to-do list. Sometimes I’ll use my BlackBerrys (yes, two) to get ahead (and, yes, occasionally indulge in the New York Post), but mostly I just transition away. I take the idea of transit seriously.

I have a theory about people in the suburbs: that they’re just a little less something than city people, in a way that’s both good and bad. We commuters are like bees buzzing between two places, cross-pollinating both with a dose of reality. It’s gotten easier in the past few years, as more people work virtually. There’s less of a stigma to being a woman who wears the big C. Today I wear it proudly: Commuter once meant absentee; now it means virtually here, but just a transition away.


Marian SalzmanMarian Salzman
CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America and ER Life PR

Named one of the world’s top five trendspotters, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, an entrepreneurial agency network now ranked ninth in the world, was PRWeek’s 2011 PR Professional of the Year, among other top honors. Before heading @erwwpr, she was CMO at Porter Novelli, CMO at JWT Worldwide and CSO at Euro RSCG Worldwide. Among her most famous consumer campaigns are the launch of the metrosexual to create a marketplace for SAB Miller’s Peroni, Pepsi’s “It’s Like This,” and “It’s America Online.” She co-founded Cyberdialogue—the world’s first online market research company—in 1992. (Marian was named to New York magazine’s first “Cyber 60” list, in 1995, the same year she was honored by Crain’s New York Business as a “40 Under 40”; the following year, Fast Company said she was keeper of one of the best job titles on the planet: Director, Department of the Future.) Marian resides in Stamford.

Twitter: @erwwpr

Stamford Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • 3rd Annual Ladies of Glitter & Glam

    2014.10.23

    Our 3rd Annual Ladies Night of Glitter & Glam to Benefit the Bennett Cancer Center. Preview our New Fall Collections, experience the...

  • JCC Sara Walker Nursery School Registration

    2014.08.11

    Registration for the 2014/15 school Our Nursery School programs are designed to help children learn in an interactive and playful way while...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • The Way We Worked

    2014.09.20

    September 20 through November 4, 9am – 5pm The Way We Worked is a fun and nostalgic look back at the history of working people in...

  • Let’s Talk

    2014.09.04

    Thursdays, Sept. 4, Sept. 11, Sept. 18, Oct. 2, Oct. 23, Oct. 30, 1 – 2 p.m. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet new people or...

  • NFL Specials

    2014.09.17

    Are you ready to spend Football Sunday and Mondays with us at the Whale? Join us for $4 Bud Light Drafts, $8 Signature Bloody Mary’s and...

  • College Football Specials

    2014.09.17

    Calling all College Football fans! Watch your favorite college football team score a touchdown at Sign of the Whale. Drink specials include $4...

  • FAll 2014 Semester beginning - Ballet School of Stamford

    2014.09.15

    Our Fall semester begins on September 15th in our beautiful studios at Old Town Hall in Stamford. We offer classes for children age 3 to 18. Our...

  • Stamford Museum & Nature Center Facility Use

    2014.09.01

    September 1 – December 31, After 5pm For a truly unique and memorable venue, host your event or meeting on the picturesque 118-acre...

  • OPEN STUDIOS 2014

    2014.10.24

    LOFT ARTISTS ASSOCIATION WELCOMES the PUBLIC to its 36th ANNUAL Open Studios EVENT Friday October 24 - 6 to 9 PM Saturday October 25 -...

  • Crawl-o-Ween

    2014.10.24

    Free costume pub crawl with check in at the Holiday Inn 1070 Main Street, Bridgeport and visiting the Bijou Square Neighborhood, then ending a...

  • Getting Into Work- An Improv performance by Sea Tea

    2014.10.24

    Adults have been asking you since first grade what you want to be when you grow up. Just because you're a teenager doesn't mean work...

  • ASTRONOMY NIGHTS: Pluto: The Battle for a Planet

    2014.10.24

    Head to the Observatory to explore the night sky, planets, stars, and more! Start by learning about Pluto, followed by a visit to view the night...

  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: Slithery, Slimy, Creepy, Crawly

    2014.10.24

    Celebrate Halloween a little early! Meet some of our live scaly and crawly friends. Touch Connecticut's longest snake, meet a tarantula up...

  • Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano

    2014.10.24

    Songbook Cabaret Series  Upstage @ The Palace Multi-award winners for their recordings and performances, jazz artists Eric Comstock and...

  • Tales of Horror and Death

    2014.10.24

    One Night Only—REAL Halloween Terror! Experience Halloween colonial style this October with a chilling tour of an authentic site...

  • Neshama Yoga

    2014.09.12

    Fridays Sept. 12 – Dec. 19 (No class Sept. 26, Oct. 10, Oct. 17, Nov. 28), 9 – 10:30 am Neshama Yoga is a fusion of Kundalini...

  • French Market (Farmers’ Market)

    2014.06.14

    Visit our farmers’ market with vendors offering the freshest fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods and more! Straight from the farm and...

  • Jewish Arts & Film Festival of Fairfield County

    2014.10.25

    Saturday, October 25 – Sunday, November 2 Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 25 through Sunday, November 2 for the 13th season of the...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Top 8 Beach Essentials
    Suit up and accessorize in style
  2. 10 Things To Do Before Summer Ends
    Finish up your summer bucket list!
  3. Stamford Magazine's 5th Anniversary Party
    Bank Street Events
  4. 5 Bars Off Bedford
    Your guide to hole-in-the-wall taverns and pubs scattered around Stamford
  5. 12 Great Date Nights
    Restaurants for a romantic night