It’s easy to blame the CTA or Metra for the problems that come with public transportation. How many times have you heard, or voiced, complaints like these: “The trains are never on time!” “It’s so dirty!” “It’s too crowded!” Well friends, as much as I can agree with these complaints, let’s think about these problems. When the CTA or Metra train left its home base that day, chances are high that it was on time, it was clean, and it wasn’t full of people. Which means, really, that the problem with public transportation isn’t the public transportation itself: it’s the people who ride it. There are three cardinal offenses that users of public transportation commit. These riders think that they’re being oh-so-clever and making the ride so comfortable for themselves, when really they’re earning the scorn and contempt of the dozens—even hundreds—of riders around them. Read on to determine if you are an unwitting problem on your daily ride.
Offense #1: The Phone Talker
It became outdated to complain about people talking on their cell phones right around the time cell phones got smaller than a shoebox. But that doesn’t mean these complaints are any less valid now. The problem with phone talkers isn’t that they’re having a conversation; if you look around any bus or train at any given time, you’ll notice several people on their phones, politely making minimal noise and not drawing any attention to their conversation. The problematic phone talkers are the ones who are choosing this moment and this conservation to pick a fight. I can’t remember the last time I got in a screaming fight with somebody—it was probably in college over who ate the last of my Puffcorn Delites (the generic brand of Cheetos)—but apparently that’s just the way many people like to have their conversations. The last time this happened was last week, at 6:45 in the morning, on the Metra. I don’t even know whom I could call at that hour of the morning and convince to get in a raging fight with me, but not only did the woman sitting next to me accomplish that (of course she was sitting next to me…they always sit next to me), but she managed to keep the fight going for an entire 30 minutes. And it probably continued on even longer, but I had to get off the train. Considering how many times I heard that lady say “I’ve had enough of you!” and “I’m done with this!”, I thought she would have hung up sooner.
Offense #2: The Smelly Food Eater
I think this one’s fairly obvious, so I won’t go into too much detail, but here’s a helpful reminder: the train is not your personal buffet. Even if the food you have with you is the most delicious creation ever, even if Charlie Trotter himself whipped you up something special for your travels, it smells noxious to the people around you. They’re all tired, they’re all crammed into a train, many are hungry themselves and everyone is getting jostled around by the indelicate braking and accelerating. Keep eating long enough, and you’ll get a free side of vomit from the person who’s had to stand next to you and your ill-advised meal for a stop too long.
Offense #3: The Multiple Seat Taker-Upper
You know those people who only need to take up one seat, but feel entitled to two? Who take the aisle seat, making it very inconvenient for anyone to climb over and take the seat next to them? Who purposely unbutton their jacket and spread it halfway across the seat next to them, warning a potential sitter that there just really isn’t room for the two of you? Who will stretch out their arms across the seat next to them, so that anybody who sits next to them will be received by their awkward cuddle? Yeah, those people. Those people are real jerks and I’ve had enough of them. I’m tired of cramming my purse and grading bag on the floor beneath my feet, with the papers I’m grading on my lap so I can make room for people, while the seat taker-uppers lounge like they’re poolside in Cabo. I bet they’re the same people who take up multiple parking spots when parking just because they can, or walk side-to-side so that nobody on the sidewalk can pass them. Listen up, jerks: we’ve all paid to be on this car. You haven’t found some “loophole” in the seating system. I know you’re more comfortable this way, but can you imagine a train where everybody just did what they wanted because it made them “comfortable”? I’d kick everybody else off, dim the lights, mist the air with lavender water and throw down some blankets so I could take a nice nap. And don’t think I haven’t thought about actually doing that. But the reason it's even possible to go from Howard to 95th Street for just $2.25 is because we’re all in this together, so stop being a chump, zip up your coat and keep your arm to yourself.
Well, I feel better now. Are there any other offenses you want to bring to the attention of your fellow riders?