All Aboard! One Commuter Mommy’s Nightmare…

When I was growing up in Northern NJ, not far from where I actually live today, my father worked in New York City and commuted weekdays via the bus.  He walked to and from the bus since it wasn’t too far from our home.  However, on rainy days my mom would gather my sister and I into the back seat of our old Dodge Polara sedan (that was some boat of a car!) and pick him up at the bus stop so he wouldn’t come home totally drenched. As a kid, commuting didn’t seem very glamorous to me.  Sure, I’d seen plenty of TV shows and movies where the hard-working husband grabs his overcoat, takes the last slugs out of a mug of joe, breezes by his wife and gives her a peck on the cheek as he races out the door to catch the train or bus to his job at the ad agency or the architectural firm in the big, bad city. But it didn’t really look like anything I wanted to experience day in, day out.

Fast forward 20 some-odd years to me getting married and living in the Jersey-burbs.  Both the hubs and I work in New York City so one of the conditions of where we set up house was that there had to be a train station nearby.  We thought trains were more reliable than buses plus the Hubs gets motion sickness easily. Seriously, I’ve seen him start to turn green taking our kidlets on the merry-go-round!

I’ve been commuting now by train for some eight years, and for the past four years I took the same NJ Transit train home everyday so I knew all the conductors, greeting each with a knowing “I’m a regular” nod and formed a friendship, most of them unspoken, with a group of commuters who traveled on the same train as I.  I knew the people to stay away from,  like the man who talks to himself while crunching on a bag of Doritos and then always had an awkward streak of nacho cheese dust on his pants, the group of rowdy sports-talking, beer-drinking investment bankers, or the woman who always seemed to misplace something – her train ticket, lipstick, phone, whatever, and would frantically search all her belongs for that day’s missing item.    There were also those I didn’t mind sharing a seat with, like the woman who knits hats and booties for intensive care/preemie babies, the IT man who showed me the latest apps and best games to get on iPad, or the older gentleman who was always reading a book about history or a famous figure.

Well, last week I started a new work schedule, which now has me working from home one day a week (yay!), but has me leaving the office later on the other four days (boo!).  So I’m now taking a later train home and I am trying to size-up my new train companions so I can navigate a “safe” seat for the ride home.  So far, I’ve encountered a man who eats an entire six course dinner on the train, in a sort of Bento box set up, but it’s definitely not Asian cuisine (smells more like fried fish and Brussels sprouts), a lady who fake coughs any time it looks like someone is going to sit next to her, and another woman who I refer to in my head as “the bag lady” since she carries about six different size bags and doesn’t want to put any of them on the rack above the seat — there are a lot of people who have perfected this rather rude “don’t sit next to me” trick.  Oh, and there is a man who clearly doesn’t take his coat dry cleaners enough…PEE-ew!  It used to be that I would get to the train with a good 10 minutes to spare, and had my choice of seats.  With my new schedule, I’m now getting to the train with about 3 minutes to spare before departure and my seat pickins’ are pretty slim…. So which of these evils have I gone with, well, last night I went with smelly coat guy last night since I’m totally all congested and can’t tell B.O. apart from a bouquet of flowers!

The Hubs recently made a brilliant discovery, an express bus that stops in our town.  He’s done that route a few times with no motion sickness.  He said while the bus is sometimes crowded, it’s just as fast, if not faster than the train.   I’m seriously considering switching to the bus line, especially if I can’t find a safer, saner, less-stinky or more entertaining co-rider to share my seat with!


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  1. says

    Congrats on the new job and good luck getting into the new routine. Having experienced both the bus & train, I’ll take the train. but it definitely depends on which train you catch!

    • TheHarriedMom says

      I live and die by the train schedule. If I walk out of my office just one second late, it can set off a whole chain reaction that I miss my Path train and hence, miss my NJ Transit connection!

  2. says

    I am amazingly lucky in that, while I need to work outside of the home instead of just freelancing at the mo’, I found a workplace that is about 8 minutes from my house by car. In the same neighborhood, practically, with no highways necessary and only three stoplights in the way. If I had to commute into Boston, I don’t know what I’d do. So respect to your mad commuting skills!!
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    • TheHarriedMom says

      OMG – I am so jealous of you. That sounds like an amazing commute – so close to home and no highways! You can be home in an instant…instead of like me – once I get to my train (which takes about 20 minutes) I still have about 45 minutes to go before I step into my house!

    • says

      That commute would KILL me. I hate dirving. I mean I really, really hate it. If I could get rid of my car altogether, I’d be a happy girl. The longest commute I’ve ever had was 30 minutes one way, and that felt like an eternity. I usually listened to audiobooks or public radio (oh my, I think I’ve just outed myself as a huge geek). I just couldn’t deal with hearing the same three songs over and over on the radio.

  3. says

    I’m a bus fan. It doesn’t make stops once you get going, and it’s a good time to just relax. It is more “close” than the train, but you also get some degree of privace because of that.

    But really, the reason I like the bus is because I’m used to it. Taking the train feel strangely intimidating, only because I don’t know the routine and times and where to get a ticket yet. Especially for coming back. I’ve got to break out of that!

    And I totally know the “tricks” of which you speak. In fact, sometimes I’ll choose that seat just to piss the person off…if I don’t have a long ride. :)
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    • TheHarriedMom says

      My Hubs is totally like you – if he sees someone purposely trying to make people sit somewhere else, he totally makes them make room for him. I just prefer not to sit next to them – b/c they usually make my trip miserable.

      • says

        I’m sorry you had that exicrpenee. I’ve had similar horrid exicrpenees with Megabus from Chicago to Toledo. The driver got sick about 1.5 hours from Toledo, and essentially abandoned her bus and we had to wait 9(!!) hours for another driver. One and a half hours from home turned into 10.5. Blah. I will never go on a bus again, so help me god, lol. I would LOOOOVE to try a train, though. I’ve never been on one other than the NYC subways/RTA trains. Though _Super 8_ gives me pause

  4. says

    I am fan of the train myself, although the bus in the winter during the morning commute has this cozy feel to it. These days however, the car is my commute companion, but I do miss the down time of the mass transit commute!

    • TheHarriedMom says

      I kinda like the train – less starting and stopping than the bus – but this train is way packed, so different from my just before rush hour train that I used to take. I like that I can do so many things on the train, read on my iPad, play crossword puzzles and even knit!

      • says

        Oh my, that sdnuos exhausting! I bet you’re glad today is Friday! I used to commute to Chicago which was about 2 hours round trip. Thankfully I could ride the train but even that has its frustrations (loud people, snoring people, delays, no seats).P.S. We have the same anniversary! Gotta love Christmas weddings

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