the commandments of commuting

Proximity to my workplace is a luxury I don’t have.

Every day I wake up at 5:30 (and earlier if I have to run in the morning) and rush to catch the bus at 6:10 so that I can make the 6:44 train to the Peninsula. To give you a visual – I am that crazy lady running down the street in her sneakers and skirt, hair dripping and cursing. This is a ritual that occurs almost every day without fail.

And I don’t think it’s an issue of time management. I truly believe a time warp exists between my bedroom and the bus stop and that the laws of physics are breached every morning.  There is no way it takes me eight minutes to shove shoes into my purse, grab a sweater so I don’t freeze to death in my office, and walk a block and a half to the stop. Impossible.

Sidenote: I am thinking of calling researchers in the physics department at Stanford to come and investigate. If there is indeed a strange bending of space and time occurring on my street then I won’t ever have to explain why I’m late for anything ever again. It could be my eternal hall pass…

But back to commuting.

There are rules that exist when one takes any form of public transportation for work travel. No one explains them to you either. However, there are subtle, yet extremely important hints that you must gather only from watching or politely asking someone already versed in the culture. Tip: Never ask another commuter to explain them right away. Especially if it’s early and they haven’t been properly caffeinated yet. Observe first.

For instance, when I first moved to San Francisco I had never actually taken a public bus before. We had the T and you didn’t have to pull on a cord to make it stop. It only takes watching other passengers to learn that the cable running along the windows is not there for decoration alone. They have a function too! I’ve learned that standing at the doors and yelling “Open Sesame” is not appropriate or proper protocol.

But the commandments of commuting are set in stone. They are crucial in a functioning society and are as follows:

1. Shower before boarding. And use deodorant. No one wants to be smelling your funkiness that early in the morning. (Or ever.)

2. Don’t talk to strangers. And if you must, never before 7 am. Because they probably don’t want to talk to you. Especially if you have broken rule number one.

3. Carry headphones. These come in handy when people break rules 1 and 2. You can just put them on and pretend you don’t see the person’s lips moving and hands gesturing.

4. Don’t touch people. Ever. There are no exceptions to this rule.

5. If you travel with your significant other, don’t fight with them in public. This is incredibly annoying for other passengers and unclassy. Note: If you are criticizing your spouse that early in the morning and in public I sincerely question how you have a significant other in the first place.

6. Don’t stare. Unless you want to start something I suggest you bring your own reading material or read one of the creepy public service announcements posted on the walls. Tip: If you don’t have anything to read/listen to you are a target for people prone to breaking Rule #2.

7. Never talk loudly on your cell phone or to friends you may be traveling with. Especially about your personal life. It’s rude. And no one cares. There are places for these conversations. The bus/train is not one of them.

I am certain others will come to mind. But it is still pretty early and I’m still recovering from this morning’s commute.

One thought on “the commandments of commuting

  1. I learned these rules very quickly riding the BART every day, they should be posted on every single train, but some people still wouldn’t get it. Oh well.

    #4 is a hard one on some days when everyone in the entire world is heading too and from work and the little old asian ladies seem to have forgotten about personal space turning me into a some sort of support for them to lean on. And #6 is an interesting one, I’ve had some odd conversations after realizing I was staring at someone for too long and they inevitably walk over to me peddling homemade rap CDs.

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