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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