by Tracy Soren

If I was a hype man and my latest project was to hype you up for this post, I would say:

“If you’ve ever been on the corner of 34th and 7th at 5PM on a Thursday, just trying to make your train back to Ronkonkoma, this one’s for you! If you’ve ever been on an express bus trying to get into your borough without an accident on the L.I.E., this one’s for you! If you’ve ever been on the subway, and some city slicker tries to think he can push into your car when there’s people bursting at the seams, saying, “Oh, I can fit. I can fit!” the train robot goes, “Stand clear of the closing doo-, stand clear of the closing doo-, stand clear of the, the, the…” then this one is most definitely for you! For all my 9 to 5ers; My Idling-on-the-break-cause-you’re-getting-nowhere-on-the-Belt Pkwy-at-7:30 a.m., let me hear you shout – WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME HOW DEPRESSING THIS IS.”

Because commuting is just that – a depressing, assembly line of human movement that bubbles anger from the furthest nerve. At least that’s what I think when I’m waiting for the escalator to leak me out from the industrial anus that is Penn Station. I look around and we all look so…tired. And it’s because we are. Working full time ages you.

But hey! I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy over here. There are some positives. When you commute, you are able to unabashedly close your eyes for a few minutes. If you’re like me, you trust no one and clutch your belongings, hoping any could-be-robber thinks you have claws for hands. In the hour or more it takes you, you are sure to get some reading done. Some assholes even catch up on sports while at the wheel (I obviously give that technique two thumbs a down). I myself look forward to catching up on a good book when I’m heading to work. I’m currently reading the newly popular Fifty Shades of Grey series, which, if you don’t know by now, is pretty much a BDSM porn novel WITH AN AMAZING, UNRELEASTIC LOVE STORY! It’s hard to not blush while reading about butt plugs on a packed train but it serves as a good morning wake up.

As a temp, I have experienced all methods of commuting. Since I’ve had to go to various locations during varying levels of brokenness, I am here to give you a crash course on commuting in NYC. I’m sure most of you can relate and that we all can realize there are real humans in this morning rush, not just mass blob of black slacks and yogurt with fruit at the bottom.

    1. The Aptly titled, “Commuter Train” – LIRR, Metro-North, NJ Transit Trains – With the exception of Metro-North (which I haven’t taken during the common commuting time), I am widely experienced with this form of transportation. I take residence in the same locale I sprouted through childhood, adolescence, my later teen years, and my early twenties. In other words, I live at home mothereffs. I take the Long Island Railroad to and fro Queens. While I will say commuter trains are much more accommodating (bathrooms, outlet, phone service, cushioned seats!) they reek of the grind. Not to mention, they are more expensive than a subway or inner-borough bus. On a commuter train, there is an unspoken pact during peak hours: Shut up. If you take these trains, you will grow a huge distaste for anyone on their phone, loudly yapping on about their root canal or their shitty children. Quiet time is always in play. Sadly, so many people disregard the rules and I hate them all. You will also find yourself traveling with the same people each day. If you’re like me, you will keep to yourself because THIS IS MY TIME TO RELAX GOD DAMMIT! But you could also be like Ms. Popular on the 7th car of the 8:14 am Port Washington train who knows everyone’s biz. My bag accidentally knocked into her coffee when I was going to my seat. It spilled on her shirt. She got annoyed at me for apologizing. I think I’m her only enemy on the train. I can’t escape her. We both have some place to be. Help.

    2. Subway – My boyfriend Matt lives in Brooklyn, and I frequent his residence. He lives off the L train which I think is a great line because it’s a straight shot through Brooklyn and across 14th ST. The downside is that it’s still a subway and during the commute it gets insanely crowded. The only subway I thoroughly enjoyed riding during rush hour was the M train toward Long Island City at 5:00 p.m. It was completely empty and I felt like I ruled the mole people. “HERE HERE MOLE PEOPLE, GIVE ME YOUR CRUSHED SLURPEE CUPS AND RAT FUR!” Matt luckily lives a bit further down the line so we can sometimes score a seat or a sweet spot away from the doors. But don’t for a second think that steel beast doesn’t get her fill. People cram into that thing until there is one big cloud of morning breath and a shared loathing of humanity. I reserve a space in the dead part of my eyes for those who take it upon themselves to DJ for the rest of us. Headphones were created so I don’t have to hear your electronica whilst unable to plug my ears with my trapped arms. Whenever I’m on a crowded train, I always think of this story my friend Jaimee told me. She was traveling the rails in France and it was so packed that no one could move; everyone was quiet. In the thick of the silence, someone simply stated, “Sardines.”

    3. Express Bus – Besides getting stuck in gridlock and thereby taking longer, this option isn’t so bad. Most people are quiet. You can easily conk out. You can talk to the driver if you have a question. On any bus, it’s universally acknowledged that you should fill up the open seats before sitting next to anyone else. I once got on a bus that was almost completely empty. A woman came and sat right next to me. She proceeded to put on terrible floral lotion. I was squirming in my skin. Out of all the seats?! Really? And you’re making me smell you!? What’s next, a tuna-onion sandwich? Luckily, her friend came on so she changed seats otherwise I would have melted like Alex Mack and slid my way home through the sewers.

    4. Car – Coffee holder. Loud music. Talking to yourself. Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. No one lets you merge. Someone lets you merge. You hope they get a raise. You’re happy you’re in your grandfather’s old Honda with its chipping paint. Merge. Wait. Sit. Inch. Inch further. Inch a bit more. Get off exit. Coffee. Alone. Quiet. Loud music. Quiet. Loud. Heat. Air. Heat. Air. Arrive.

There you have it – a truthful, albeit bitter and sad guide to commuting. But it isn’t all bad. Whenever I’m in Penn Station there is always the prospect of an Auntie Anne’s pretzel on the horizon. Whenever you’re on the subway, there’s always a chance for a one of a kind, NY story. Because let’s be honest, even stuck on the L train with your hands by your side on a hot July morning is better than being an actual, filleted sardine. I’ve had sardines in my cupboard for years and I don’t think they will be freed any time soon. Sucks for them I guess – they have no place they need to be.

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