Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The TTIV Year In Review

Who doesn't love a "Year in Review" column? Many publications do them this time of year, because it's cheap and easy. The stuff's already been written. You can shut your brain off, look through the stuff you've already done, and recycle it. TTIV is no different. 

In this post, we'll explore some commuting highlights as we say goodbye to 2014.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Hazards of Headphones

This morning, I got off the Long Island Rail Road and made my usual walk to the subway. The Allman Brothers Band's "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" was grooving in my headphones, and I was in a very pleasant zoned out state.

I stood on the subway platform waiting for the A Train to arrive. The world around me was shut off, and soon I noticed that most everyone on the platform made a hasty retreat to the exits. What happened?

TTIV In Print!

Hi #TTIV friends! amNewYork picked up one of my stories, it is available at the following link. If you are in the city or an area where they print amNewYork, be sure to pick up a copy!

Thanks to all for following The Train In Vain. I enjoy writing it and greatly appreciate all your feedback, comments, and encouragement.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Good Will Toward Your Fellow Man and Zombies

Note to #TTIV Readers: This blog piece was published on amNewYork's website at this link. Republishing here on the blog.

This morning on the train, I was half awake as we pulled into Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn. Dazed and tired from the epic rainstorm (not to mention that binge-watching "The Walking Dead" on Netflix has significantly altered my normal sleep patterns), I collected my stuff, got up, and headed toward the vestibule to wait for the train's arrival.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Game Plans And Rookie Mistakes

Today's TTIV post comes from Marsh, our Metro-North Correspondent. Marsh will soon helm our Eastern Pennsylvania Bus Bureau, as he is headed for greener pastures. In the midst of a moving transition, this seasoned commuter has had to relearn some ropes.

In prior TTIV posts you've read about “Rookie Mistakes,” where new commuters failed at seemingly fundamental tasks. As a long time commuter and big time football fan, I’ve noticed similarities between the blunders made by inexperienced commuters and those made by young quarterbacks.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

More Commuter Neurosis

Recently I rode the 7:44 PM train home. I sat in the six-seater, across from two other guys. The six-seater is not my favorite place to perch but at least I wasn't standing. The six-seater offers its own series of neuroses, but that's not the subject of this post. Today, we'll talk about the neurosis of an "if you see something, say something" moment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve, AKA Rookie Day

Today is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. What is it that people do today? They travel. They go see their loved ones. And how do they get there? By any means possible. This includes the Long Island Rail Road. 

Normally, I take the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, but not this year. I’m hoarding my vacation time. As a result, I’m taking the train home right now, sailing the sea of cluelessness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter Commuting: What NOT To Wear

The weather's been all over the place lately. Freezing cold one day, 60 F the next. You never know how to dress. But don't worry. TTIV cannot guide you on what you SHOULD wear, but certainly can help you with what NOT to wear. When the weather gets cold, everyone starts to bulk up. Bulking up creates seating challenges on the train. The aim of today's blog post is to lay out some guidelines to help alleviate those challenges.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sleeping Past Your Stop, A Reader's Story

Readers: Are you familiar with the "Patch" websites? These sites share community news and interesting stories with readers, and my blog posts are sometimes distributed there. Today's TTIV post is a story related to me by Marv, a Patch Reader from Plainview. He read my story, "Slept Past My Stop. A Lesson Learned," and related his own similar tale.

I get some of my best sleep on the train. A fallout of this is sleeping past my stop, which I've done on multiple occasions. Usually, it's not that big a deal. When it happens, I can walk around to the other platform, wait a bit, and a train will soon come. But then there was the day I slept REALLY well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Commuter of the Day: Bongo Man

Recently, I sat across the aisle from a musician. He had a bongo, and he wasn't afraid to play it. All the way from Penn Station to Mineola, where he got off. He sat in that seat for the whole ride, headphones on, big grin, eyes closed, working out that bongo.

The funniest part, at least to me anyway, was the guy sitting next to him who barely even gave a glance. Clearly a veteran of the rails.

In fairness, Bongo Man was considerate. He did not bang hard on the drum so as to disturb everyone around him. But it's not often that you see a guy wailing away on his percussion instrument on the 7:11 PM to Ronkonkoma.

Note: These men did not really have green faces

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
Share your commuting stories on the Facebook TTIV site, on Twitter, using hashtag #TTIV, or via email.
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Peeves of Octavius

Did that title get your attention? No, this isn't about Roman charioteers getting to and from the Circus Maximus. Today's TTIV entry is a guest contribution from a friend who has many commuting peeves. He shared a few with me. He prefers to be anonymous, so we'll call him "Octavius."

Many things about the commute bother me, but lately some have bugged me to no end. Here are my top three.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

High Stakes Platform Roulette

What do Las Vegas, Atlantic City, your local OTB, and the Long Island Rail Road have in common? Thrilling gambling! Odds in your favor! The chance to win big! The distinct possibility of losing your shirt!

You're probably wondering how the Long Island Rail Road fits into this category. In today's blog post, we'll explore "Platform Roulette," a challenging game of skill and chance. The rules are simple. You wait on the platform, hoping to be directly in front of the doors when the train stops.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Perfume Karma

I got on the train today and found a great seat. The woman in the adjacent seat respected the boundaries, and there was no duct tape anywhere to create a sticky mess on my clothes. Score! I sat down and got comfortable.

I noticed that the woman was wearing perfume. A reasonably attractive perfume. And then, I realized that she was wearing a lot of it. My nose started to burn. My eyes started to water. I'm not a highly allergic person, but when things trigger the allergies, they trigger them in a grand way.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Miscellaneous Irritants Of The Day

You may have noticed I haven't posted in about a week. I've been suffering from a case of writer's block. It's hard to believe I've had nothing to say about the train for this long. But today, I'm back.

If you've been following for a while, you understand the importance of things going just right on my commute. It means so much to me. When frustrating things happen, I log those events. Sometimes I report them to you immediately, and sometimes keep them on ice until there's enough to make an interesting post.  I'm ready to share a few of my pet irritants.

Speaking of irritants, the woman next to me is blabbering on her phone. She's hiring two photographers and they've sorted out the menu for the event. Thank goodness. Happy Bar Mitzvah, Louis.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ebola and You: A Commuter's Survival Guide

Ebola's here! Ebola's here! And I'm sure you're wondering how the heck you can avoid catching this dreadful virus. The short answer is "good luck with that." It's highly contagious, and here in New York we spend a lot of time in tight spaces. Mayor Bill de Blasio has ensured us that we should not panic, but that's about as comforting to me as former Vice President Dan Quayle telling us that it's perfectly safe to eat genetically modified foods.

So, I'm ignoring the warnings and following my own avoidance methods. After all, exactly one person has fallen victim to this heinous virus, approximately 1500 miles away, in a country of 300,000,000 people. So I'm not taking any chances. I've come up with ten train behavior suggestions to avoid catching Ebola. I call it, "Ebola and You: A Commuter's Survival Guide."

As a collateral impact, many of these efforts will result in a more pleasant commute. Everyone wins!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spiders on a Train

On the train, looked up from my book and saw a spider spinning a web directly in front of me. Woman next to me got skittish, and I batted it away. Wish I'd taken a picture first. Not something you see every day.  

Makes me wonder how much of the arachnid/insect food chain lurks on trains. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Bus, The Bus, The Bus Is On Fire

Today's TTIV post is from our NJ Transit Bus Correspondent, Chintan. Buses sometimes go out of service, as do trains. However, when buses go out of service, it's a much more dramatic experience.

Here's something that doesn't happen every day. Well, for those who commute on NJ Transit, it does. But for everyone else, it may be surprising. A crowded bus catches fire, during rush hour. Everyone has to exit and wait for another bus while emergency vehicles attend to the stricken bus. 

Those who get caught in this situation are no doubt aware that this tragedy inevitably unfolds at a major merge point, or within a single, enclosed lane. Why have a burning bus if you can't maximize the disruption it causes?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Slippin' and Slidin'

I'd like to welcome TTIV readers to "Slip/Slide Conditions Season." During this period, leaves fall from the trees onto the tracks. When it rains, the water and leaves combine to form an oily mush. The Long Island Rail Road clears the rails frequently during off hours. However, there are a lot of trees and a lot of leaves.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mr. Murphy, I Should Have Stayed Home

A disabled train somewhere west of Hicksville snarled LIRR traffic on Friday morning.  The platform was packed. A Brooklyn-bound train pulled in, and I happily got on. The throng on the platform wanted to go to Penn Station in Manhattan, and very few boarded. My final destination being downtown Manhattan, it's just as convenient to go to Brooklyn or Penn. I sat down, looked out at the commuters waiting on the platform, and thought, "TTIV 1, Train Delays 0."

Little did I realize that Murphy's Law would apply.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Impressive Waste Of Tax Dollars

Exhibit A
Westbound Duffy Ave, Hicksville
If you’re a “The Train In Vain” blog regular, you know that I like to use the parking facility at Hicksville. It’s close to the station platform, and there are plenty of spots available at the time I normally catch the train. On most days, the Long Island rush hour traffic is pretty challenging, but today was worse, and UNNECESSARILY worse.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Post: An Entirely Different Kind of Commuting Challenge

Today’s The Train In Vain blog post comes from Christine, a high school friend with whom I’ve reconnected via the magic of social media. She lives in North Carolina, far away from the commuting craziness we in the north live day in and out. Under all that southern charm and polish beats the heart of a New Yorker, and she has a great story to tell.

Christine was in a serious car crash many years ago. She walks with a cane and leg braces, a critical point to the story. Commuting is tough enough. A disability adds a whole other dimension.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Quick Thank You

Recently, I checked the blog mailing list and was thrilled to see a group of new followers. Many are people I don't know personally, and I welcome you to the blog and hope you continue to enjoy my musings. The virtual camaraderie makes the commute enjoyable.

Hope you continue to follow! Keep giving your feedback, positive and negative, and ideas for future posts. It's all appreciated.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Morning Stroll In Search Of a Seat

This morning, I made a dash from the parking lot to the platform.  I had no choice but to get on at Seventh Avenue side, or the east side of the train. It is always crowded there, and finding a seat is too competitive for my taste. To illustrate, I've included a crude drawing below. As you can see by the purple arrow on the right side, I came up the steps to the platform on the east side, to face a throng of bald, faceless, and extremely short commuters who want to get on the train from the Seventh Avenue side.

Before I boarded, I decided I would walk through the cars to the 8th Avenue side, where it would be quieter. As I made my way from car 12 to car 2, a blog post happened.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Everyone's Got a Story To Tell About Today

Like most who experienced it, I vividly remember this day 13 years ago. Everyone has a story to tell.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I was in New York City but my story is boring. I was newly married, living in Manhattan.  My wife and I both worked in midtown. Nobody close to us was impacted directly by the attacks. I remember looking at the burning towers and arrogantly thinking to myself, "terrorists can try all they want, but those towers are not coming down."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Little Yippee Men's Room Watchdog

At Penn station, I walk into the men's room. Several urinals in a row along the wall. At one is a man with a back pack. Sticking out of his backpack is a little backpack type dog. Tried to use the urinal next to him. Dog barked at me. 

Only in New York. 

For (hopefully) obvious reasons, I am not sharing a photo. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Train In Vain Shares News From a Cruise

I've been away for the past week on a cruise, in case you've wondered why I haven't posted any observations recently.  On the cruise, I noticed some parallels between vacationing with thousands of strangers and commuting with thousands of strangers.  In this post, we'll explore some of the similarities and differences between a cruise commute to Bermuda and a train commute to New York City.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Morning Grind

Some of you have asked me what the daily grind is like when commuting on the train.  There are several "legs," including the morning routine, the drive to the station, the train ride, the subway, and finally arrival.   In today's post, I'll give you a glimpse into the morning routine on a typical day.  The morning routine is supposed to culminate in my catching the 7:29 AM express to Penn Station.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two-Fer Tuesday

On the train, realizing there's opportunity for a scientific study to support a new hypothesis: The louder and more obnoxious the ringtone, the louder and more obnoxious the person using the mobile device. I should have a valid sample set within weeks. I'll let you know which medical journals publish my findings.

On the train, some guy just spritzed himself with cologne. It's nasty, "Axe" type stuff. I may go ride in the little space between the cars the rest of the way home.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Technology Failures, Male Stubbornness, and High Anxiety

Recently, I made a mad dash from the subway to the Long Island Rail Road at Penn Station to catch a train that was about to leave.  As I weaved in and out of people, I glanced up at the departures board and briefly saw "7:44 Ronkonkoma Track 19."  At least, I THOUGHT that's what it said.  I flew down the steps and jumped onto the train at Track 19 as the doors closed.  Made it!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Simple Act of Decency On The Subway

Recently, I posted on social media about something I saw on the subway:

On the subway, standing next to an elderly man and a young man in a suit. Train stops and a seat opens. Young man sits down. 30 seconds later, he sees the elderly man and gives up his seat to him. 

Faith in humanity restored.

This post whittled it down to something simple, but there's more to it, for me anyway.  Let me explain.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Today, I spent many hours in the hospital visiting someone very close to me.  He had surgery to remove a malignant growth.  Tonight he is home and well on the road to recovery.  I'm very grateful for the attention and good care he received from top quality doctors and nurses.

Why do I post this on TheTrainInVain, you ask?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't Let The Blog Bugs Bite

Some folks have told me about a technical glitch they've seen on this blog site.  It happens when you use an iPhone to open a blog entry from a browser like Safari or Chrome.  When the post appears it will be small and hard to read, requiring "pinch and zoom" to see the text.  When you pinch and zoom, the site refreshes the screen with the second most recent blog post.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

There Are RULES! The Non-Functional Walk

As I got off the subway and made my way to the LIRR one recent evening, I walked down a crowded hallway at my usual breakneck pace.  I have tunnel vision when trying to make a train, and will pretty much step over anything and everything, like OJ Simpson (without the murder rap) in the Hertz commercials.  Catching my train and not waiting another 15-20 minutes at the Penn Station rat hole for the next train is important.  When anyone who is able-bodied gets in my way, I get angry.  In other words, someone perfectly capable of following the RULES who does not follow the RULES is a RULES VIOLATOR.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LIRR Strike Averted!

After my rant the other day about Andrew Cuomo living in an ivory tower, I'm going to give the New York Governor his due in averting a workers' strike.  He realized he made a misstatement, got involved, and led both sides to a solution.  With his leadership, the job got done.  Well done, Governor.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

How The Heck Am I Going To Get To Work?

This potential strike is looming heavily.  As the two sides continue to pout and stand on opposite sides like 5th grade boys and girls at a dance, I realize just how royally screwed 299,999 fellow commuters and I will be when these selfish jerks strangle the entire region.  I wonder if they've even given a moment's thought to how much damage this strike is going to cause.  It's not just the commuters.  It's the ancillary businesses.  The taxi stands, coffee shops, newspaper and sundry shops.  Everyone loses.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Secret Stash

Earlier today, I took the subway from downtown Manhattan to 34th Street to connect with the LIRR and make my way home.  The 8th Avenue side is currently a dungeon, as they’re doing a lot of construction for the build out of the new Moynihan Station at the former Farley Post Office site.  The new Moynihan Station will likely be the most beautiful train station that I’ll never use.  It has a majestic staircase on 8th Avenue that will cause endless inconvenience and frustration for travelers with bags, but I’m deviating from topic.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Thursday, July 03, 2014

When a Scam May Not Be a Scam

In an earlier post, Another Fare Evasion Story, I explored some train scams that riders pull to avoid paying fares. One of those scams was relayed to me by a colleague who I gave the moniker, "Yahska."

Yahska told me that he'd seen a passenger get on the train, whip out a seat check card that indicated his ticket was already taken, and put it in the little slot in front of him.  It seemed a pretty effective and clever scam.

Now I'm not so sure it was underhanded.

When I got on the train this morning, the number of travelers was pretty light.  It is the Thursday before July 4th weekend, and many people take an extra few days around the holiday.  I had my choice of seats.

As I got comfortable, I realized I'd sat near a small group of older folks who were very chatty.  At first I thought nothing of it.  A few minutes later, the conductor checked tickets and put a seat check card in front of me.

Soon though, their conversation became annoying.  They complained loudly about everything.  I had to move.  Quiet is golden in the morning.

I collected my stuff and instinctively grabbed the seat check card.  When I got to my new seat, I put the seat card in the slot in front of me.

Is it possible that Yahska saw something similar?  Did he see a man relocate when he couldn't take his previous seat accommodations anymore?  We'll never know.  But if this were a trial, my scenario would create reasonable doubt in the prosecution's story.  This juror finds Yahska's defendant innocent.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

The best compliment I can receive is a new follower who was referred by a friend! 

Sign up for the blog mailing list by entering your email address in the "Follow By E-Mail box."  Or, if you're on Facebook, give TheTrainInVain page a "Like."  You can also follow me on Twitter.

Twitter: @davidrtrainguy
email: thetrain.invain.829@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Chatty Subway Conductor

Anyone who regularly takes commuter or subway trains knows that conductor announcements vary.  Sometimes, a conductor is just going through the motions and you can barely understand a word he says.  Sometimes, a conductor makes funny comments.  Sometimes, a conductor is hostile and yells at passengers.

And then, sometimes you get a conductor who is super chatty.  Recently, I was making my way from the LIRR Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn to Downtown Manhattan on the subway.  The conductor was so chatty that I took notes on my iPhone to remember his comments.  In a span of about 6-7 stops, he said a lot.  Perhaps he had a script in front of him.

And Now, Deep Thoughts

Earlier today, I was on the train, seated near the center where people sit in seats that face each other. There were several hearing impaired folks, and they were having a lengthy conversation in sign language.  

If they were in the quiet car, I wonder if another person would have walked over and "SHHed" them in sign language.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Armageddon is Coming

Reported in Newsday earlier today: A Long Island Rail Road strike is now more likely than ever, union officials said after a hostile bargaining session with MTA that broke off abruptly in less than two hours.

Both sides should be ashamed of themselves.  Get your sorry asses back to the table and hammer this out.  Stop playing with thousands of livelihoods.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

There are RULES! Subway Edition

I've spent a lot of time talking about the Long Island Rail Road, and haven't given nearly enough attention to the NYC subway system.  Therefore, in this post we'll explore some subway rules.  But before we get started, here's a photo of the interior of a typical subway car, for those who do not regularly ride mass transit.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

LIRR Workers Potential Strike

Long Island Rail Road workers are threatening to walk off the job if they don't get a new contract and a big fat raise. I'd like to see them get jobs in the private sector and try this tactic.

I know little about unions and how railroads operate, but I really wish there was some competition.  Seems to me that most everyone lives lean and a few fat cats get fatter.  

Maybe it's more like the private sector than I thought.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Have a Seat

Today on TheTrainInVain, we're going to talk about train seat maladies.  Every now and then, whether you're on a newer M-7 train, a double-decker, or an older train, you'll come upon seats that are not desirable for your derrière.  Let's look at a few.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Thoughtless in Stereo

On the train, suffering in stereo. A lawyer behind me is conducting trillion dollar deals on his phone, and a woman in front of me is detailing relationship problems.

Not in the mood for it, I've asked both to keep it down, and received smiles of appreciation from others. The quiet lasted a minute before their voices crept back up. 

Headphones aren't helping. My best hope for peace is a targeted two-pronged meteor strike.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Ironies Of The Quiet Car

I sat in the quiet car to Manhattan on Friday.  The quiet car is usually pleasant in the morning, given that the majority of riders are veteran commuters.  Calls and electronic noise are at a minimum.  People respect the RULES.

I've noticed that the quiet car has several ironies.  But before I explain what I mean, I need to clarify some things for the non-commuting reader.  The quiet car is always the west-most car.  Since trains go in two directions, the quiet car is the first car on west (NYC) bound trains, and the last car on east (Nassau and Suffolk County) bound trains.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rant of the Day

I am aggravated with the MTA today. I forgot my MetroCard, which gets me on the subway to my office after taking the LIRR.

When you don't have a MetroCard, you have to pay $1.00 for the privilege of owning a new one.  Is the $1.00 a lot of money? Of course not. But we pay a lot of money for transit services as it is. This dollar for a new card, with no value on it, is a slap. A "screw you, we can charge whatever we feel, and you can't do anything about it" charge. 

End of rant. I will now get on with my day. Thanks for listening. And hold on to your MetroCard when it's empty. Don't give them any more of your money than is necessary. 

Ok I feel better now.

Monday, May 26, 2014

How Many Ways Can I Be Late?

Every day, I try to catch the 7:29 express.  Why?  It's a great train.  It originates from my station, and the doors open 15 minutes before departure time.  This means no standing on the platform waiting for the train in bad weather.  As a train commuter, these things matter, and a lot of things will conspire to go wrong in the morning and make me miss my train.  Let's look at a few.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Unusual Things Brought On The Train, Part III

In recent posts, I've commented on the interesting things people bring on the train.  I saw a man carrying a bag of extension cords, and a woman with a puppy.  There were the large stuffed animals I won at a company holiday party.  Then, a fellow train observer pointed out that a man in the UK tried to bring his horse on the train.  I'm still amazed by that one.

On May 19th, the New York Times published an article about the Long Island Rail Road Lost and Found.  People bring interesting things on the train, but what they forget and leave behind can be even more interesting!  Of course, there are the garden variety backpacks, jewelry, and phones.  There's hats, gloves, and umbrellas.  None of these surprise me.  Let’s look at the more unusual ones.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Unusual Things Brought On The Train, Part II

Recently, I blogged about strange things I've seen on the train.  Well, a Twitter follower alerted me to this 26 second gem of a news clip.  A man tried to bring his pony on the train.  A pony trumps extension cords, large stuffed animals, and puppies any day of the week.  Why did he try to bring his pony on the train?  Who knows.  I suppose even ponies have to get from Point A to Point B.

Watch the video.  It's worth the 26 seconds.

This is why I blog.  The material never fails to present itself.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

Twitter: @davidrtrainguy

Sign up for the blog mailing list by entering your email address in the box that says "Follow By E-Mail."

Someone once told me that if a street performer made you stop and watch, you owe him a buck. I like to think there's an analogous rule on the Internet. If you read this post and it made you smile, would you give the blog a Facebook "Like?" It's here on the page, you'll find it at the bottom of the screen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Monday, May 05, 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Recurring Dream, As Rejected By Newsday

Here’s a train story that’s sort of a train story.  It actually reads more like a “Wonder Years” episode, but I like it and thought I'd share.  Newsday rejected it, but I hope you enjoy it.

I am a baseball fan.  Love everything about the game.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I don't like Alex Rodriguez, never did.  I don't like huge multi-year contracts, because the players always crumble long before the deals expire.  I don't like the DH, because I believe each position player is supposed to take his hacks.  I’m not sure about instant replay, so I won’t comment on that.  But other than those things, I love everything about the game.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mr. Whipple Wants Two Seats. Sorry, Pal.

On the train, found a two-seater containing a man in the aisle seat and an empty seat next to the window. I say, "excuse me," and the guy gives me a nasty look. I continue to make eye contact with him and finally he gets up. One seat per person, JACK. You don't get to stare me down because you want two seats. 

By the way, he looked like Mr. Whipple from those Charmin commercials of the 70s. That made his indignation even more amusing to me. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is It The Quiet Car Or The Silent Car?

Today’s TheTrainInVain blog post comes from Marsh, our Metro-North correspondent.  What started as a post about the quiet car turned into a debate between us.  Once again, Marsh called me the Anna Wintour of blogging.  I wear that title with honor.

On October 17, 2011, the MTA launched a new program on Metro-North rush hour trains where one car would be set aside as a “quiet car.” It would be an environment free of cell phones, loud conversations, beeps, and buzzes.  The LIRR soon rolled out the same program.

I planned to tell a story of how I was unnecessarily “shushed” on the quiet car by a woman who possessed bionic hearing or had an object lodged in an unfortunate place.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Angry Feedback Catches Me Off Guard

I was pretty darned excited about having a story published in Newsday.  I felt like this hobby of mine might get some publicity.  People would learn of the blog, join and share their own experiences, and we’d all live happily ever after.  Well, I did get some positive feedback and high-fives, as well as some new followers, but did I ever get some wallops.  Some Newsday readers took offense and interpreted the piece as being insensitive to a person who may have been hurting financially. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Scam, You Scam, We All Scam

Train scams are top of mind for me lately.  You may have seen my post about the man who hid in the lavatory to avoid paying his fare.  There have been stories in the news lately about people using credit card skimming devices on ticket vending machines to steal your money.  What a wonderful world.

This has me thinking about how scamming is just a fact of life.  People try to beat fares, and the commuter rail organizations want to extract your money.  The LIRR is quite good at it, but they don't call their methods "scams."  They call them "policies."  Let's look at a few.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rush Home Early Days On The Train

It's the first night of Passover, which means a mad crush to the commuter rails for "Rush Ahoma."  If you're leaving early to try to make it home before sundown, I wish you a safe commute and a joyous holiday celebration.  As Moses said, "let my people go.... home."

For those of you who are getting on a train but ride the rails only on special occasions, here are a few things you can expect to see this evening.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Train Hazards

I often write about the kinds of things that can exasperate us on the train.  But have you ever thought about hazards to your belongings and to your person?  Dangers exist!  We MUST face these things in order to be safe!  Forewarned is forearmed, so read carefully.  This is more of a public service announcement than a blog post.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Come On and Take a Free Ride

Tonight, I caught the 6:01 train from Penn Station.  The train was short, which means that there were only 8-10 cars instead of the usual twelve, which means more people standing.  I was one of them.  Standing in the vestibule with several other men, we were outside the lavatory.  One of the men had a suspicious look about him.  He was looking around, like he was up to something.  Being the observant and curious person that I am, I started watching him.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Interesting Characters of the Third Quarter

In previous posts, I presented the interesting train characters of the first and second quarter.  They made up the first six months of a Long Island Rail Road pin-up calendar.  To refresh your memory:

January: Six Pack Guy
February: End It All Guy
March: Footloose and Fancy Free Gal
April: Medical Emergency Guy
May: Slither Around Everyone Waiting For Doors To Open Guy
June: Vicious Newspaper Consumption Guy

I realize as I write that the characters are mostly male.  I feel very bad about my sexist calendar.  I will try to include more women in the fourth quarter.  We are nothing at TheTrainInVain if not inclusive. 

And now, without further ado, here are the interesting characters of the third quarter.

The Sniffer

On the train, woman next to me is reading and has smelled her book several times. Perhaps it is a scratch and sniff book. If so, I hope she's reading about flowers and not deep into "50 Shades of Grey."

Scratch and Sniff Woman. That is a new one. Maybe she will make the Train Characters pin-up calendar I'm planning. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Today's "TheTrainInVain" blog post comes from Marsh, our Metro-North correspondent. Given the number of edits I made to his last post about the rules of eating on the train, he called me the Anna Wintour of blogging. I take that title very seriously and feel I must live up to it. With that in mind, I present to you Marsh's thoughts on sleeping on the train, with only a few helpful edits from me. 

You Got Chocolate in My Peanut Butter !!!

On the train Friday evening, I observed two men standing in the vestibule. Man 1 was holding in his hand about 10 clean dress shirts on hangers, fresh from the cleaners, but without plastic covering. Man 2 was drinking a beer in a 16 oz cup, without a lid. 

In an old Reese's Peanut Butter cup commercial, a guy holding chocolate collides with a guy holding peanut butter.  That story had a happy ending, with Donny Most (Happy Days' Ralph Malph) and Robby Benson (who is famous for something) enjoying a special moment.  

I'd bet the story of Man 1 and Man 2 didn't end as happily.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Those Keen Honking Reflexes!

Up till now, I've been telling train stories.  I thought it might be interesting to explore the other leg of my commute, the drive to the station.

On my way to the train station this morning, I came to a red light.  Of course, this part of the story should surprise no one.  On Long Island, you come to a red light every 1000 feet, on average.  I believe Nassau and Suffolk counties use more electricity for traffic management than entire developing countries consume in an entire year. But I'm deviating from topic.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


It's been about a month since I started this blog, and those of you who signed up for the mailing list (thank you thank you thank you) have been inundated with my thoughts 2-3 times per week.  Not one of you so far has removed your name from the mailing list, and the fact that you're still with me is greatly appreciated.  Of course, for all I know you've set up an e-mail spam rule that drops my messages directly into your trash, but that's ok.  Don't tell me.  Ignorance is bliss.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interesting Characters, Continued

In a recent blog post, I identified three interesting characters I've encountered on the train: Six Pack Guy, End It All Guy, and Footloose and Fancy Free Gal.  I suggested that if I could come up with nine more, I might be able to publish an "Interesting Characters" pin-up calendar.  

Those aforementioned three will make up the first calendar quarter, or the winter month characters.  Now, with spring upon us, the timing couldn't be better to identify the second quarter characters.  

Meet the "Train Characters of the Second Quarter!"

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Nutritious Commuting Breakfast

I'm sitting on the train, across from a man in his 70s. He is eating a bag of peanut M and Ms. It is 7:30 AM. 

I'd like to think that has something to do with a diabetes sugar regimen. I hope he's not alone with no one to help him eat right.

Or, maybe he's got an attitude of "I'm in my 70s, and I'll eat peanut M and Ms for breakfast if I damned well feel like it."

I like the last explanation best.  

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.  May you also live to an age where you eat candy for breakfast without an ounce of guilt.

If you're enjoying my blog, would you please click the Facebook Like button on the website?  It can be found on the right side of your screen or at the bottom if you're on a mobile device.  Thank you for your support!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Time For Some Q & A

It has come to my attention that despite presenting several installments of the RULES, there will inevitably be questions surrounding specific train behaviors.  In this blog post, we explore some frequently asked questions about train etiquette.  I think the Long Island Railroad should officially publish something this informative.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse at Penn Station

Now that we've kicked this blog off, I think it's important to give the infrequent riders and non-commuting readers a visual understanding of the Penn Station terminal and the daily grind. Penn Station offers three services - Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak.  To get a feel for what Penn Station is like on the LIRR side, picture an open space with some high but mostly low ceilings, shops selling mostly garbage, and a sitting area.  In total, it can comfortably fit maybe 2,000* people.  Now, imagine that space with 15,000 people*. You've just visualized the LIRR terminal at Penn.

* I made these numbers up.  But they feel right.

If you still can't visualize it, here's the main LIRR waiting area, when nobody is there.  This happens once a year on a Tuesday at 4:29 AM.

Here is the LIRR waiting area, on an unusually crowded day.  But the photo isn't far from daily reality.

Now, let's talk about the behavior of those 15,000 people who are there at any given time, mulling about and filling the space that can safely handle about 2,000.   Think of them as a room full of zombies.  They're fluttering aimlessly. Muttering to themselves, muttering to no one in particular, staring at mobile devices, staring up at the departure board with wild-eyed abandon.

Then, a track announcement comes over the PA.  "6:08 train to Huntington departing on Track 18."  BAM! 500 slack-jawed zombies at once make a break for Track 18, all moaning "TRAAAAAAINS!  TRAAAAAAAINS!" as they lose eyeballs, limbs, and other appendages from their undead corpses.  Ok, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little.  They're not really losing any other appendages.

As the undead run for the train, which mind you won't leave most likely for another 10 minutes, they do not care if they knock over suitcases, hot dog stands, flower vendor kiosks, small children in strollers, or other people.  They must get the BEST seat, presumably, because there will be a fresh brain there for them to eat.

As a veteran commuter, you get to know tricks to avoid the zombie apocalypse.

The savvy commuter gets to know the typical tracks his trains leave on, and descends to the platform BEFORE the announcement.  This allows him to avoid the flesh-eating monsters.  Sometimes, there will be a track change, but it's worth the hassle of changing tracks now and then to avoid the crush.

I'll share more tricks in later posts.  In the meantime, remember when commuting to use your BRAINS.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

There Are Rules !!!! Some Thoughts From Our Metro-North Observer

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, THERE ARE RULES! Our Metro-North Observer (aka my good friend Marsh), was kind enough to share some helpful thinking and guidelines around eating on the train.  You may read the below points and think, "Common Sense."  But, as any seasoned train commuter knows, common sense is often left behind on the platform when boarding the train.  If we truly are what we eat, then it stands to reason that many of our fellow riders have been going for seconds and thirds at the "Clueless Commuter" buffet table. Commuter trains don't have dining cars.  They are commuter trains. They get you from A to B.  In this mathematical reference, A does not equal "Appetizer," and B does not equal "Bread Pudding."

The seats on commuter trains are REALLY close together. They don't have fold-up tray tables.  There aren't any napkin dispensers. There is no waiter service. There is most definitely a bill (gratuities optional).  These are pretty good clues that the train is not the ideal place for a meal.

Now with this in mind, sometimes you get hungry and you're in a hurry. You have to eat, right?  So fine.  Just remember the following RULES.

No Soup For You.  Let's see.  Hot liquid near my lap in a vehicle prone to sudden stops and jerks. What could possibly go wrong?

Cutlery is strictly prohibited.  Are you going to try to eat from that styrofoam container in your lap?  Using a plastic knife and fork?  Are you actually going to attempt to eat chicken cordon bleu with asparagus spears and baked potato on a moving train? Not only are you guaranteeing a trip to the cleaners, but you're going to make a mess in my space.  And possibly choke.  I'll have headphones on with my eyes closed, so I won't notice.  You'll have to perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.

A plain bagel is fine.  An onion bagel is not fine. Tuna and whitefish on an onion bagel should result in a $500 fine.

So, eat in your car, on a park bench, at the deli counter, or, here's something radical: at home!

With many thanks to Marsh, for helping to provide constructive guidance to the commuting public, and for accepting the fact that I've edited his thoughts to be a bit more, um, family friendly.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter people with uncommon sense.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Very Special Blog Post: A Cautionary Tale

We interrupt our regular programming today to offer a cautionary tale.  Earlier today, my wife and daughter were in the local supermarket shopping center, loading groceries into the car.  Suddenly, they heard a commotion.  They looked over to the store entrance, where a man in his mid-forties was literally screaming at an elderly man and his wife, presumably over a minor fender bender.

The argument continued for a few moments, and the younger man punched the older man in the head.  His glasses went flying.  The younger man then obliviously went into the store as though nothing had happened.  Needless to say, those who witnessed what happened were shocked.  My wife called the grocery store, and was told that Security had already been called.  The older man and his wife collected themselves, got in their car, and drove away.  I wish they had stayed for the arrival of the Police, so that the thug could be identified and arrested.

I can't see what could possibly precipitate such an ugly and violent reaction, but whatever transpired should never have resulted in such behavior.  I hope the younger man is arrested and spends a little time in the cooler with large tattooed men who don't like bullies.

So why am I telling this story on a blog where the goal is to note objectionable behavior on public transportation and other shared spaces?  It's because I want to caution you about who you choose to confront.  A person may be on the train having a loud mobile phone conversation, but if you decide to say something, you may find yourself in an unpleasant situation with a hothead.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, headphones, headphones, headphones!  Keep your cool, and write to me instead.

Happy commuting, and may you encounter people with uncommon sense.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


One of my favorite lines from Seinfeld is when George shouts, in a moment of frustration, that THERE ARE RULES!  What he's referring to is his perspective on how the world SHOULD be.  Well, this post focuses on my rules and expectations for train commuting.  The ones below are just a few to start.  I will add more as they come to mind.  I'd like to know your rules as well, so feel free to add them in the comments.  With enough feedback, we can build a Commuting Constitution.
  • Rule of Sleeping.  If you snore and your mouth is wide open, I am within my rights to try to land peanuts in your mouth from my seat.
  • Cell phone conversations can and will be used against you.  If you speak on a cell phone, and you are loud enough that I hear you give your cell phone number to the person to whom you're speaking, I reserve the right to harass you with text messages saying to shut up.
  • Mouths in Motion Tend To Stay in Motion. Warp 5, Mr. Sulu. If you see two people on the platform waiting and making small talk, you can reasonably expect that the small talk will continue for the duration of the ride.  These people technically have the right to have a conversation about fascinating topics such as the virtues of metal rakes vs. wooden rakes and mower blade sharpening.  Move away.  While you still can.
  • Mouths in Motion Tend to Stay in Motion. Shields Up! If moving away is impractical, get out the headphones. You don't even need a device to plug them into. They will provide sufficient muffling.  Or turn down your hearing aids if you are lucky enough to be hearing impaired.  
  • Be nice... Until it's time to not be nice.  Everyone will try to get on the train before you.  Elbows out and smile as you nicely shove your way past everyone.  If you are too nice, you will stand all the way to your destination.
  • The lavatory will always be gross.  Even after they clean it.  And to top it off, the sliding doors rarely lock properly, so when the train stops short, the door opens and it's SHOWTIME !
I haven't even touched the topic of the eating on the train.  Stay tuned for a very special guest blogger post on this subject, coming soon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This Metro-North Conductor tried to do right by his regulars by apologizing for a train schedule miscommunication the prior day.  He left paper messages left on train seats for passengers to read.

I knew before I read the article that Metro-North Management would say they don't condone this kind of communication and scold him. I say good for him. There is so much misinformation shared with the riders that it is refreshing to receive a genuine apology for an honest mistake.

This man takes such pride in his work, and given the year Metro-North has had, they should cling to this feel-good story like a life raft on the open sea.  Too bad they blew it again.

Click for story

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kicking This Thing Off

Hello, my name is David, I ride the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan, NY 3-5 days per week.  Once in Manhattan, I often take another form of transportation, such as the subway, PATH, or bus to an office, either mine or that of a client.

My train ride is pretty typical for the tri-state area.  An express train will get me to Penn Station in about 45 minutes. Overall one-way commute, door to door, is about one hour and twenty minutes.  Tell anyone in the NY metropolitan area that’s your commute time and you’ll be met with a blank stare that says, “typical.”  Tell someone from outside the area and he will recoil in horror and wonder why anyone would subject himself to this.

Well, I’m a born and raised New Yorker, and my roots run pretty deep, so here I stay.  I’m a pretty observant guy, and I enjoy people-watching.  So, a blog is born.  

Disclaimer: I make no claim that any of the things I point out are real issues - just the contrary.  This however, does not change the fact that people who don’t follow the “rules” need proper education.

If you spend your days at home not meeting anyone, you probably won't follow my thinking.  If you are a super-positive, glass is half full person all the time, you probably won't follow my thinking.  But if you commute on a train or bus, work in an office, or drive on a highway, and a have a reasonably healthy dose of cynicism baked into your personality, then you may relate with the things I observe.

Here are some basic examples of the kinds of people I encounter on the train.  Their behaviors should result in some kind of societal traffic ticket.  In my perfect world, all violators would be required to stand before a judge who would hear each case and then sentence the perpetrators to an appropriate punishment.  Naturally, I would be a prime candidate to be that judge.

Cell Phone Abusers:
  • The meanderer.  The meanderer could be a teenager having a conversation with no direction, a person interviewing a job candidate, a mother talking to her child, a member of Houston Mission Control directing a critical space mission, etc.  If mobile phones are likely to cause brain tumors, the meanderer is at high risk.
  • The highly important businessman.  You know him.  He conducts multi-million dollar deals on his commute.  The word "million" is used a lot.  He's likely wearing a bluetooth headset.
  • The sharer.  The sharer discusses personal matters at a volume just a few decibels below stadium PA speakers.  I know more about one woman's gall bladder than I do about my own organs.
  • The arguer.  The arguer is in a battle with a significant other, who has committed an egregious wrongdoing and must be made aware of this RIGHT NOW, along with everyone else within earshot.
Others include:
  • The seat and armrest boundary violator.  You'll find him on planes, trains, and automobiles.  He oozes into your space.
  • The belligerent intoxicated person.  Grouchy, loud, and drunk.  Most likely, he  has forgotten his ticket and will argue with the conductor.
  • The music lover.  I can listen to all eleven minutes of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying" (even though they stole it from Blind Willie Dixon, but I digress).  Can you?  Would you want to?  Probably not.  So, I keep my music down on my headphones.  
  • The gum popper.  Don't even get me started.  He deserves the electric chair.
My list could go on and on.  It probably will.  Thanks for reading and sharing your comments.  I look forward to having some fun with this.