I made a rant about taking the train in the form of a story. I also made sure to thoroughly censor names and locations to protect my privacy. Don’t be weird.
Update from Bree: Well, it’s almost two years later, and I think I can safely say, holy shit I really miss the morning commute. I miss being outside. I miss being in the city. I miss interacting with people. Even annoying people early in the morning in a crowded train when I’m just trying to get somewhere on time.
Hindsight, friends. It is 20/20.
I live in a huge city that’s made up of five neighborhoods. We’ll call them “thoroughs.” Of these “thoroughs,” I live in the most populated one. We’ll call it “Womanhattan.”
Womanhattan. Not Manhattan. Womanhattan.
Every Monday, I get up early in the morning to travel to another “thorough.” We’ll call this, “The Flonx.” Now, The Flonx is pretty far up compared to Womanhattan, especially the neighborhood I go to, which is only a few stops from the end of the train line (we’ll call it the 10 line) that I take. Needless to say, it’s a long trip.
You might be thinking, “But Brioche, going on a long trip doesn’t sound bad enough to rant about!”
Picture this: You get up nice and early. You go to the train station. It’s hot and stuffy. Hundreds of Womanhattinites, all angry and miserable and tired, stand ass-to-ass on the platform. You’ve fainted in this very station twice before from heat exhaustion–once in the middle of winter.
The “public benefit corporation” that runs the trains–we’ll call it the MTA–is infamous for constant delays, line switching, getting stuck at certain stations, and even sometimes randomly kicking people off the train with no explanation and making them wait for the next one (which may come immediately. Or may not).
The train line you take is always especially fucked in the morning. You get down to the platform and it’s so packed that you know right away that the 10 is delayed. Even when another train shows up (we’ll call it the 9), no one leaves the platform, and you know it’s because this god damn 9 train that no one needs is running perfectly while the 10 that everyone fucking needs is delayed ten minutes due to “signal problems.”
After ten minutes of waiting, the train finally arrives and the entire platform empties out into it. You are small and timid, so although you started off at the front, you are shoved and manhandled until you somehow end up all the way towards the back. When it’s your turn to board, you have to awkwardly waddle through the crowd, and you find that you don’t have anything to hold on to. You aren’t tall enough to reach the handrails on top, and you’re especially thrilled to see people much taller than you leaning with their backs against the only poles that you can reach. You brace yourself for the jerky movements of the train by getting into an awkward half-warrior stance with your legs spread slightly apart.
The doors close. Then open again. Some dumbass is trying to squeeze in with his suitcase. He obviously doesn’t fit, but bless his heart, he tries.
The doors open and close again. The conductor, fed up, shouts through the speakers, “Step all the way in!” You wish for the sweet release of death.
Suitcase man makes it onto the train. His bag is pressing against your ribs.
Finally, the doors close and the train moves. You aren’t even ass-to-ass at this point; you’re basically inside each other. The dude behind you is really tall and you feel him breathing on your head.
You want to have something to look at on your phone to avoid making any awkward eye contact, but you have no signal and you don’t want to read on Kindle and you’ve already tried looking through your pictures since you have nothing else to do and you–, oops, you made eye contact with the disturbed man eating a chimichanga. Now everything is awkward.
The train finally arrives at the next station. You never imagined in your life that time could move as slow as it did getting from Station A to Station B, but you are relieved that it’s over and that hopefully the train will empty out some.
Then you see it through the window as the train pulls into the station: the faces of a hundred more commuters, all equally dead inside.
Tip for identifying commuters: gauge their will to live.
“Well,” you think, “maybe a bunch of people will get off so it won’t be so bad.”
The doors open and the stream of new passengers boards. No one gets off. It takes four tries and another angry announcement from the conductor for the doors to close again.
Any time you breathe, you take in the smell of sweat, expensive perfume, and the vague scent of piss. The tall man behind you is so close now that you want to tell him that he should’ve bought you dinner first, but you know he’s probably thinking the same thing about you.
Chimichanga Guy is muttering to himself and now you know you definitely can’t look in his direction anymore because making eye contact once is an accident, but making it twice is asking to have a chimichanga chucked at you.
The man leaning against the pole seems to realize that people like having something to hold onto, and steps away. You’re so relieved to have support that it almost doesn’t bother you when another person’s hand gripping the pole right above yours keeps inching down until the edge of their palm is uncomfortably touching your thumb.
You move your hand further down each time to avoid the accidental contact, but the slightest extra movement from the train inevitably sends their hand pressing into yours again.
About ten stops later, the train starts to empty out. There’s a few people scattered here and there, but at last, you are able to sit. Finally, you can relax until you get to your stop.
You’re only two stops away when the conductor announces that “this is the last stop on this train.” Bewildered, you look around and wonder if you had somehow gotten the stops confused until you see the few other passengers looking equally confused or annoyed. You are unceremoniously kicked off the train and instructed to wait for the next one.
The light at the end of the (both metaphorical and literal) tunnel.
It’s cold. You’re too strapped for time to walk the rest of the way yourself, and you’re too close to the end of the line to bother finding another train elsewhere. You’re not sure if the line is shutting down entirely for the next few hours or if a new train will show up eventually. You wait.
The train arrives. It takes about eight minutes, but it arrives. You get through the last few stops without incident.
Finally, you’ve made it. You step onto the platform and head up the stairs with a renewed vigor, overjoyed that you made it through your morning commute and can finally start your day.
Only for the dread to hit you full force when you realize what happens when the day ends and it’s time to go home.
You get to do it all over again.
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Bryanna Gary is the founder of The Angry Noodle and a current editorial assistant at Del Rey Books–science fiction, fantasy, and horror imprint of Penguin Random House.