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Train People: The Sequel

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NOTE: This is a sequel to my previous post: Identifying the Train People.

Ever think you could execute your morning routine blindfolded? That the repetition is engrained into your cerebral cortex like the mark of a library stamp? That you could fight off ninjas and still get everything done in time to catch the ever glorious AM train? Yes, it’s time to commute in again.

The AM Train. Chugga chugga chugga screech. Five minutes late everyday, but 93% On Time according to the surveys. The AM Train. A twenty five year old sardine can with bad ventilation, that hasn’t been replaced because my suburban line does not generate enough revenue. I step on anyway, iPodded and sunglassed, and look for a slab of vinyl to become a napping corpse on.

Of course, like the PM Train, there is an ever-present cast of fellow travelers that I’ve come to assign an artificial identity to. I must do this. There is no choice. I’m exceedingly weary of engaging in any boring conversation that perfect strangers could possibly have, and worse yet— I so enjoy making up names. It makes seeing these people as entertaining as a city droner can be.

Each morning starts by standing on the platform next to a couple I’ve coined the American Gothic duo. Like the famous painting by Grant Wood that they resemble, the two both stand very rigid, and never talk. For some reason, they also sit apart at times. The man often dabs his upper lip with a handkerchief, and I get the feeling his pitchfork is not far away.

Upon getting on the train, I often cross paths with a woman I call Ozzy Chick. She’s in her early 30’s, wears tinted round glasses, and parts her reddish-black hair down the center. While I’ve yet to see her bite any heads off of birds, she does have this weird fashion sense… it’s like every style of bad wallpaper you could imagine in an 70’s kitchen, I’ve coined it ‘corporate nauseous’.

Once everyone has sat down, a man in his late 40’s will walk up and down the aisle as if he’s looking for a seat. But even if there are open ones, he won’t sit. He has a kind of lurch as he walks, and he wears these awful looking striped polos that make the Izod gator bite its own tail. Yet he reminds me of a flaky doctor I’ve met once, and so I’ve coined him Dr. Strange. While he bears no resemblance to the Marvel Comics character, the name fits.

While I usually point out the peculiar people on my train, one thing I’ve taken note of is the evolution of pregnant women. Most are regulars who one day appear to be slightly heavier (hey, it happens to the best of us). A month or two later, it becomes evident why. Then after a few more months of full tilt belly, they just disappear. A few months go by, and the women return as if nothing ever happened. While the maternity leave is obvious, it is amusing to watch strangers evolve while I’ve been hovering in my isolated Dantonian limbo.

As we near the metropolis, it is then that I consider role reversal. That if I have a tag for these people I see every morning, then therefore they probably have a tag for me. What could it be? Angry Looking Young Man? iPod Guy? The Gent with the Mirror Shades and Swiss Messenger Bag? I certainly don’t look like an artist or a writer (if such a stereotype exists, although I’ve been told I don’t look like those anyway.) But then, I think I got it— the Fast Walker. Yes I confess, I am compelled to get the hell out of Grand Central the second I arrive.

Why you ask? Surely you know if you’ve ever walked into Grand Central at 8:45 in the morning. It’s like that scene from The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo pilots the Millennium Falcon into an asteroid field— giant rocks flying everywhere, Chewbacca growling, C-3PO screaming like a big wussy, and damn I need a cup of coffee.

And when the doors open, I spin a list of songs and find the hardest beat, and swerve through the human asteroids like a drunk driver with a lead foot. Although it works like magic, since people seem to avoid your path when they see that you’re moving like a madman on a mission. If I walk slow like strolling to Sunday jazz, then I will inevitably get stuck behind a couple walking side by side, pacing like its not rush hour. But no, they want to be snails that are not in need of coffee. I digress, and speed by the bomb sniffing dog towards Madison Avenue.

You could melt all this data together and conclude I hate commuting, but I don’t. Really. I swear on my pipe dream of success. Commuting’s like a big sociological lab experiment, and I get to be the Watcher. I’ve seen actual fist fights, soap opera-esque arguments, you name it. I find it’s part of the urban experience, and for that, I enjoy it. Maybe one day, I’ll live in the city and walk to work, but that’s a post for another day.

How do you get to work? Let me know what you think the ‘ideal’ commute is.

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Mark Sahm writes and walks pretty fast at Blogimus Prime.

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About Mark Sahm

  • ricegrl24

    My ideal commute is one where I DON’T HAVE TO!!!

    But until that day…its one where my other half doesn’t need a ride to the train station and I can sleep an extra 15 minutes. Where all the lights are green on my way to I-95 and there is not another car in sight. Just an open road. Dare to dream. 😉

  • Morpheus warned you to avoid the freeway. It’s just another system of control. :p

  • James

    Have you guys read the book of poetry Commuting to Life Everyday? You would really connect with this book Mark.


  • Mark, just a note to tell you i LOVED this. i adore sittin on trains an just observin. all that human melodrama goin on round about. i don’t commute, technically, but i get a train couple times a week an just, well, enjoy the atmosphere.

    an i too give names to various people. usually ones i’ve gotten all obsessed with romantically for the duration of the journey.

    i think maybe it has a lot to do with lovin those folks songs about ramblin and tramplin and goin here an there. for forty minutes i get to be Woody Guthrie.

    again, loved this.

  • James: It’s in my Amazon wish-list to buy. What did you think of it?

  • Duke, thanks for the props. I appreciate it. If you liked this, you might like the audio version of the original Train People on my podcast too.

  • great, thanks for the link, mark. i’ll check it in the mornin (just gone ten past five in the am. all this commentin’s knocked me right off my plan of bed by 2)

  • James

    Hi Mark,

    I thought it to be an amazing book. The author kind of re-invents his own way of writing poetry and you get a sense of traveling through his life. There’s a couple of really cool traveling type poems too. He’s the kind of guy that seems really blunt too. Very cool book. Check out his web site; http://robertdumont.com