“Training” fellow commuters on “Public Transportation Etiquette 101”
Illustration by Kim Rosen
If the term “rush hour” conjures up images of a sardine can and if a rainbow of monthly train passes gluts your wallet, consider yourself part of a very special breed: the Metro-North commuter. Perhaps you’ve even gotten to the point of recognizing fellow passengers, e.g., the poker-playing foursome on the 8:01 am express from White Plains.
As a member of the Metro-North commuters’ circle, I have come to tolerate some minor commuting annoyances, such as the train conductor’s ticket puncher awakening me from a much-needed nap. Unfortunately, I also have had to deal with the habits of riders unfamiliar with the etiquette necessary to keep this public transportation system civilized. Facing rush hour on a daily basis certainly can make you a wee bit irritable, even really annoyed, but don’t you just hate it when other passengers:
...treat their bags as an imaginary companion.
Yes, we all know that commuting requires that you occasionally carry a wardrobe change or a small portable office with you, but, please, keep those extra seats free, especially during rush hour. Bags do not have feelings; they’ll enjoy the ride just as much on the overhead rack.
...stuff their ticket into the netherworld of a backpack.
Rummaging through a slew of personal belongings while the conductor looms over you for 10 minutes is an annoyance to all parties within a six-foot radius. Find your ticket before the start of your train ride and keep it in an accessible spot.
...talk loudly amongst themselves in the seat next to you.
Whether you’re discussing a lawsuit, a break-up, or your co-worker’s bad breath, keep your conversations to a dull roar, particularly on crowded trains. Heed one Metro-North conductor’s words: “We don’t need to hear your business; we don’t want to hear your business.”
...insist on eating smelly foods, like tuna or Tex-Mex.
This isn’t the Orient Express. Can’t you wait to have dinner at home? Try snacking on less offensive fare, like popcorn, pretzels, or Doritos.
...don’t take out the trash.
Speaking of Doritos, stuffing your empty Doritos bag in between the seat and the wall of the train car is not a proper way to dispose of it. Would you stuff it between your sofa and the living-room wall? We didn’t think so. Take garbage off the train with you. The huge blue bins at each station will serve you well.
...try to nail their grooming routine on the train.
Invariably, someone will engage in an extravagant grooming routine, which may include clipping and filing of nails (or worse, fuming up the car with nail polish!), slathering on various beauty products, or God forbid, spraying perfume. Please, if you must engage in a grooming routine, leave the nail clippings and aromatics at home.
...don’t turn it down a notch.
The iPod is a godsend when it comes to a peaceful ride (especially if you happen to sit next to a sniffler, cougher, wheezer, or snorer), but be sure you keep the decibel level at a healthy maximum when on the train. “Listening to techno blaring out of someone’s headphones at six in the morning is a disruptive way to start off anyone’s day,” says Diana Sahawneh, a seasoned Metro-North commuter. Your eardrums—and ours—will thank you.
// Sabina Cieszynski