Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Thoughts of Trains

Over the past week I have had a lot of time to ride the subway. Along with the long and tiring commutes came some very interesting trains of thought. There is no limit to the amount of interesting experiences that are possibly encountered while riding MTA subways, and I feel I have already had my fair share of those. However, just being forced to sit on a train full of random people for more than an hour can create a wellspring of very interesting thoughts even without any overly interesting incidents. I have therefore decided to relate some of my interesting subway thoughts along with an intuitive rule of the rails.

While on a long train ride to a fairly unpleasant destination, my mind frequently plays with a few distinct recurring thoughts. When I first set foot on the train I generally think of just relaxing throughout the long ride while placing any thoughts of the destination outside of my conscious mind. Eventually, I am inevitably gripped with an irrational desire to explore and go free. As I pass through various unexplored stations I find myself with an uncontrollable urge to exit the train and abort the mission. I figure it will be extremely entertaining to just walk out at a random station and just roam the streets of an uncharted territory. Station after station, I sit in my seat longing for that adventure that doesn't really exist. After all, I have explored most of Brooklyn, and I am not really missing out on any exciting sites. The only actually mysterious site is the train stations themselves. Also, my lack of interest in my real destination gives me the desire of just acting in a haphazard manner. Fortunately, I rarely fall for these temptations, and more often than not I just fall asleep to the soporific rocking of the train.

When I awake from my unintended nap, I generally notice that the train is far closer to my destination than expected (I rarely miss my stop). Having forgot about all the previous encounters with foreign stations, my mind becomes filled with another familiar train of thought. I start longing to stay on the train. The train continues to the next station after it drops me off. And after that station, there is yet another station. I want to remain on the train and see how far the train can go. I am aware of the length of the line as depicted in the train map, but seeing is believing. Besides, who wants to leave the train? It feels like leaving a baseball game after only the fifth inning. I will only reluctantly leave the train knowing that I will probably never visit those remaining stops. I typically remain sitting in my seat until the train is about to close its doors in order to savor every last minute of the commute.

On some special commutes, the long train ride gives me opportunity to develop new laws of commuting. During one of my most recent train rides I encountered a fairly common problem that gave some support to an already well established rule of the rails. As the train opened its doors, I began entering what I thought was a completely empty car. Only after a quick inspection of the far end corner seat did I notice a vagrant individual that seemed to be fast asleep. Almost immediately following the sight was the smell. The entire car reeked of an unknown odor. I couldn't see myself staying in that car another moment. Without a second thought I made a dash for the next car, and was able to enter safely with my olfactory equipment still intact. I knew from that point on that my commute wouldn’t be one of the boring sleepy kinds.

As the train pulled out of the station my mind became flooded with thoughts regarding my recent experience. First I thought of how wasteful it is for these people to claim an entire car to themselves. But then I realized that there were probably no people taking the next train on account of his presence, and the same amount of people would occupy the train either way. Then I started to wonder how it must feel to have a whole personal train car. Was he insulted or was he proud to be left alone? What laws can be written to prevent people from doing what he was doing? Was he even doing anything wrong? What could be done to help such people? How did everyone in the car feel back when this guy originally entered the train? The questions continued faster than I could find answers, and I was already quite entertained.

The entertainment didn't stop with my entering the adjacent car. Apparently, every normal human being agreed with my assessment of the situation, and with every stop of the train my car saw an inflow of smelly car refugees. Some people would enter the odorous car and immediately run out and head to my car. Others were not as fast. These people would wait in the car until a critical level of odor registered in their neurons. At that point these people would form a line and walk through the door connecting the two cars. I was sitting at the other side watching the faces of each victim. Each new person would enter the car as if he or she had a story to tell everyone. In reality, they were only providing entertainment for people who had already experienced the encounter with the stench. I was in no position to think anymore. I just watched people making different decisions with equally different facial expressions. I watched as a few people even braved the fumes and decided to stay in the smelly car. I could feel their pain as they sat in the spatial car wondering why they chose to endure such a treatment. Many people run from painful situations, but some people are just not able to give up. However, sooner or later everyone left that car and came into my car with an entertaining grimace.

This story lends credence to one of the most fundamental rules of the rails: One should never enter an empty train car. There are times late at night when average pleasant smelling individuals have the privilege of having a full car to themselves. However, such situations are extremely rare during normal commuting hours. If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn't true. When an empty train car greets you at the station, pass it up if you wish to avoid any unpleasant circumstances. If a car is empty you should always be suspicious of something. During this ride it happened to be a homeless individual. But, there are a number of possible deplorable circumstances as well. One of the times when I entered an empty car I was greeted by a pigeon. At least the bird didn't smell. But it was trying to fly away, and that can be quite distracting to someone who routinely takes naps during a daily commute. If you enter a crowded car, you are not necessarily guaranteed a seat. But you are also less likely to encounter very unpleasant situations.

Taking a daily subway commute leads to a plethora of train ideas. I have random thoughts during normal commutes, and even crazier thoughts during those eventful ones. Just the other day I was wondering how many people would fall off the train if the conductor mistakenly opened the wrong doors. Now I am wondering how that homeless man would have felt if he found himself in the same car as the pigeon. Add to that two people with guitars and you have some seriously bizarre situations. With all of the joy of taking the trains I wonder why anyone would commute in any other way. I can't speak for other people, but I enjoy the thought of trains.


  1. Give in to your fantacy in the begining of the post, stay on the train forever, end up like the guy at the end of the post, smelly in such a way that makes no one want to be near you. Got to be careful now. ;)

  2. The other day my mom got onto an empty subway car and had to leave because it stank so badly. Upon recounting the story to me, she mentioned the validity of this blog post (I had sent it to her months ago because I thought it was really funny, and she remembered it lol). Please accept our compliments :)