Your Guide to Public Transportation
Riding public transportation puts you face to face with your fellow man, serving as an accurate cross-section of your city’s population. The good, the bad, the quiet, and the smelly can all be found seated together in harmony, or crammed like sardines trying to grasp the closest free pole while the bus or train speeds ahead. Indeed, public transportation can be a harrowing/entertaining/action-packed experience for neophyte and professional rail-rider alike. Buckle up – rather, hold on – and take a gander at your guide to public transportation.
Public transportation is one of the great equalizers of society; from the businesswoman commuting to a posh office building to the homeless man riding to escape extreme weather, everyone must pay a fee and endure the usually crowded, sometimes bumpy ride to arrive at their destination. Since you’ll be sharing a small space with strangers, it’s best to get an idea of who these travelers will be. Here’s a preview of some of the colorful commuters you’re sure to encounter on your next ride:
Ever environmentally friendly, the biker takes the bus or train in between pedaling her way through the world. Aside from her bike, she doesn’t take up much space, and often opts to stand with her cycle rather than claim a seat. Wiggle your way behind her wheels and you’ve got yourself a protected ride until she reaches her stop.
Easily identifiable by his suit and leather-bound laptop, the businessman can be as innocuous as the biker, busying himself on his computer or reading a newspaper until his stop is called. He could also be yapping away on his cell, oblivious to everyone except the person on the other end. Yes, his phone call is THAT important. Rest assured, though, as most coverage is no match for the underground leg of your ride. Endure a few seconds of “Hello! Hello! Can you hear me? You’re breaking up!” and breathe easier as the peacefulness of the ride is quickly restored.
The College Student
You’ll know the student by the messenger bag they tote containing this semester’s required reading. In addition to studying for an ever-imminent exam, students often study their city’s transit system and know the best – and cheapest – way to get from point A to point B. You can be sure they’ll guide you in the right direction if you can’t decipher that transit map in the station.
The High School Student
On his own, the high school student is nearly indistinguishable from the college student, often only given away by his school uniform. However, the high school student can’t bear the thought of being ostracized by his peers for riding quietly and respectfully to his destination. Horseplay, merrymaking and/or music playing are common, so bring your headphones and a good book or be prepared to move to the next car.
Keep a few coins handy to donate to the artist sharing her musical gifts with your car. Most riders appreciate a good performance and will respond by snapping pics or videos and clapping enthusiastically when she hits that high-note. Join in the fun and show your gratitude by dropping a tip into her hat. While an impromptu performance is a welcome surprise, a panhandler can be bothersome, going from rider to rider asking for change. Give if you feel like it. If not, be prepared to bury your nose in a book or newspaper until they pass. If said scrounger continues asking or becomes angry or aggressive upon your refusal to donate, move to the next car and/or alert your driver.
The Priority Rider
See those seats closest to the doors marked “Priority”? They’re specially designated seats for folks requiring the most unobstructed exit in case of an emergency. Injured or disabled riders, elderly people, obviously pregnant women (as opposed to someone you might simply suspect is pregnant), and parents with babies or small children should be offered these seats if you’re occupying them. Even if they refuse, it’s a kind gesture and, more importantly, the law.
With his stop at or near the end of the line, the snoozer comfortably slips into slumber after a long day at work. Adept at PTS (public transportation sleeping), he remains upright and in his seat, never drifting over to your side to create an even closer and far more awkward ride. Though he appears harmless, the snoozer can be a hindrance to your exit if you’ve got a window seat and he’s snoring away. Luckily, most snoozers can float seamlessly in and out of shuteye, so gently rouse him when you’re a stop or two away, hop up, and watch in awe as he cozies himself into your vacant seat and drifts right back to sleep.
Want a smooth, seamless ride to your destination? While you can’t control all factors that contribute to the attainment of the perfect commute, you can do the following to ensure you’re the best passenger you can be:
Exercise Proper Hygiene
Yes, sometimes you opt to skip the shower after your workout since it’s just you driving home from the gym and hey, you don’t mind your own “aroma”. That’s fine for your personal vehicle, but not so for the crowded bus ride home. As much as you appreciate your fellow passenger’s lack of smell/scent/stench, they appreciate yours. Shower or freshen up before boarding and go light on the cologne or perfume as these can be just as offensive as stinky armpits.
In an effort to maintain the cleanliness of the bus or train, eating or drinking is often forbidden. Take your last few sips or bites before boarding and stash your snack until you reach your stop. Your fellow riders will appreciate not having to see or hear you chowing down while their mouths water hungrily or curl in disdain.
If you’ve got a long ride ahead and managed to find a comfortable seat, take this opportunity to catch up on any projects or reading you’ve neglected. Sitting back and letting someone else take the wheel may just be the most relaxing part of your day. That combined with the knowledge that you’re saving gas and reducing emissions can make for the perfect environment to let your creative juices flow and complete that article or free your mind to devour that bestseller you picked up for just such an occasion.
Mind Your Manners and Your Business
Remember how you’re going to offer your seat to the priority riders above? Try extending similar courtesy to other commuters by holding doors for those carrying large loads, providing people with directions, or just acknowledging others by making eye contact or smiling. Not too much eye contact, though, as you don’t want to make anyone feel threatened or think you’re being nosy. Hold their gaze for a few seconds, fix your eyes on that meaty novel in your lap, relax and enjoy the ride.
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