Monday, June 20, 2011

Train Tantrums

I’m a bonafide commuter and take the train to work, and (so far) I love it.  I love unwinding, listening to music, staring out the window, dog-earing my book, and thinking about dinnertime and Penny and Matthew and all those precious little things.  I’m on my daily migration to what’s important.

But there’s a dark underbelly to the train, too; one that centers on a pervasive lack of manners and general etiquette.  I do enjoy myself some Miss Manners, I must say.  You will receive a thank you note from me, and niceties will be met with a “my pleasure”.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m going to write about the train douches (yes, I said it) on the R5 line.  Really – they need to be exposed.  So hitch a ride, darlin’, because here we go!:

Septa (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) regional rail trains are invariably set up in the following format: a set of two seats on one side, and three on the other.  Meaning, if there is a full train, someone will have to sit in the middle.  I often take a train called “The Great Valley Flyer”.  Doesn’t that just scream turn-of-the-century railroad romanticism to you?  The Great Valley Flyer stops at all the outermost stops on the line, and then continues into Center City Philadelphia non-stop.  I live a good 2/3 out on the line, so I pick-up the train on its last stop before it choo-choos into the city for a 7:51 am arrival.  Because of this, the train is always very crowded with tired commuters and there are almost always only middle seats left.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT pretend to be asleep so a new passenger will forgo asking you to slide over.  These dufuses are almost always male, because, and this is very scientific, here: I believe males have a bigger allotment of asshole-y genes.  I can SEE YOU peaking out at me through your half-closed eyes, sir!  And spreading your legs in the biggest, most obnoxious and grotesque “V” isn’t going to stop me.  And YES, my big booty will take a seat.  Also, putting your briefcase, laptop bag, and newspaper all in a row to take up the middle seat will not deter me.  I see others look at your seat, look at the crowded train, then look back at the seat in that sad, timid way my dog looks at leftover food on my plate: they would rather stand the whole trip than bother with the likes of you.  Well, they’re obviously nicer than me, so scoot over!

On most trains there is an overhead rack, number one, and number two, why don’t you try a little consolidation?  Women are particularly guilty of this: oftentimes a woman will carry 1) a purse of smallish stature, 2) a tote bag of largish stature, and 3) a lunch in a thermal container.  Sometimes a laptop bag is thrown in there, too.  I’m particularly baffled at these gals: whatever happened to one large work bag?  I carry a large leather tote a la L.L.Bean (stylin’, I know): it can fit a laptop, a pair of shoes (and these are some pretty damn big size 11’s), my wallet and mp3 player, and a lunch.  However, I’m not mad at them because they aren’t spreading their baggage all around like a petulant fifth grader. 

Now let’s touch on the cattle call that is the train station during the evening commute.  When our train pulls in I have never witnessed such base behavior.  This is no Titanic, folks, with women and children first.  I’ve seen feeble old ladies cut off by a Main Line douche.  This is a good time to say I find people who live on the Main Line particularly loathsome, and it’s really my problem.  I’m sure most are hard-working good people who aren’t on their second marriage to someone half their age, and they all don’t drive Mercedes convertibles and have live-in help.  But I don’t care: that’s how I see them all (I know, I know: I’m awful).  For non-locals, the Main Line is a supremely tony area of suburban Philadelphia.  My train runs through this area as Matt and I live about 15-20 minutes north of this tax bracket (and thus three tax brackets south).  Now don’t get me wrong: I’d love to be rich and not work, but I’m not, so my only option is to seethe at them and be a jealous ol’ curmudgeon.  And write pithy blog posts.

My distaste for this suburban breed began when I was cut off again, and again, and again by clueless moms in Land Rovers chirping away on their Blackberries.  This happens daily.  She’s often pulling into Whole Foods with three children in the back and wearing Lululemon yoga pants.  Now that I take the train with their husbands, I’m even more incensed because (and I swear to you on this) they are always the ones who would rather give up their nanny than move over a seat or let you slide in.  If you are dressed in something from Target or Macy’s, or, jeez, even Banana Republic, you’re downright jolly in the morning.  Brooks Brothers and reading the WSJ?  Keep a’walkin’. 

But even I am shocked when I see good ol’ elderly folks trampled in the commuting rush.  I have literally put my arm out to stop the masses as the woman in question gathered herself and slowly boarded the train.  I am also known to give dirty looks at these offenders, and I swear I can be all sorts of intimidating given by 5’10” stature (5’11” in the orthopedic flip-flops my mom insists I wear).  They’re probably scared I’ll key their X Series. 

Finally, there are the individuals (read: men) who insist on getting up and positioning themselves in the aisle a good stop before their designated stop.  The other day a MLD (Mainline Douche), who occupied the window seat, said to me, who occupied the aisle seat, “The next stop is mine.”  I replied it was also mine, thinking we were good to go, when he said, “Well then can you please move?”  We were still at
30th Street
Station, which is a few minutes before our Suburban Station stop.  The train was idling.  I got up and MLD took his position in the aisle.  Now this is the kicker: I finished my book chapter and got up when the train actually pulled into Suburban Station and LO AND BEHOLD, stepping into the aisle directly behind me.  I figure he saved two seconds off his commuting time by doing this, so good going MLD!  You win!

I know I sound like a bitter Betty, but I can assure you I love the train!  I love feeling like a part of the masses – there’s just something so intrinsically welcoming about it.  Like, we’re all doing this less-than-ideal commute together.  We’re all waiting for this delayed train, together.  And sometimes I’m even tickled by my well-off seatmates (my JC Penney-clad self often guesses if their cuff-links are real gold, or, god forbid, platinum). 

So, there you have it: scoot in or let your fellow passenger take that middle seat without grunting, quit the farm animal shoving, calm the heck down, and I swear, I’ll quit bitching. 



  1. I read this several times just for the sheer entertainment value--I love it when you rant and seethe! But I agree with you, there is a general lack of civility that is all too pervasive today. Mmmm....why not make some copies of this post and scatter 'em on the Great Valley Flyer?! Oh, I learned something--Lululemon pants--who knew? I had to google that one. And they are not "orthopedic flip-flops" that you are wearing--they are supportive sandals to support your burgeoning weight. Love, MONG

  2. Lululemon yoga attire is what all the hip wasp-y girls wear. It's nice and all, but I can't fathom spending $100 per item to sweat in!

    And the shoes are called Orthoheels, so yes, they are orthopedic flip flops!

  3. I do believe that the behavior of males on the train started when they were boys on the middle school bus. My daughter has told me horror stories of how all the boys push and shove to get on the bus first. She has been forced to get on last to hopefully find a single seat. When there are not even any of those left, she will park her book bag next to two of the rudest, most obnoxious boys there and squeeze her 5'8" frame next to them and smile. Ah, revenge is sweet!


  4. There was a lot of angst when I was trying to navigate the social hierarchy of the school bus, but Megan has such moxie! Good for her! It took me this long to finally not care what those male bozos think!