Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Midnight Rider - Answer Key

On Monday, I shared a story about taking the wrong train, which has now happened more times than I care to admit. I entertained myself by writing the story as it happened and weaving in Allman Brothers Band references.

Many of you counted the references and came back to me, asking if your counts were accurate. The number of references was 18. Here is the answer key.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Midnight Rider

I have a wrong train story to tell. One evening, I got on the Babylon train instead of the Ronkonkoma train, a mistake that cost me a lot of time. Bored, with time to kill, I opened up the computer and wrote about it to keep busy. To further entertain myself, I worked in Allman Brothers Band song references.

How many ABB references can you spot? Winner gets... well, the winner gets nothing, really. We don't have a budget for prizes at TTIV. The winner gets to name a band and I'll work its songs in as references in a future blog post.

Recently, I had a pretty challenging week at work and couldn't wait to get home. It was Friday night and I'd been in the office past 9 PM. Completely spent, I trudged to Penn Station and boarded my train. On went the headphones, on went some early Allman Brothers, and on I went to Zoned-Out Land.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gum and Paperwork

This morning I put $40 on my MetroCard at the vending machine. I then went to the turnstile and the card got stuck mid-swipe. What the heck?

MetroCard Swipe
Source: NY Daily News
Some jerk decided it would be funny to block the card swiper with gum or some other sticky substance. When I pulled the stuck MetroCard out, it had buckled along the magnetic stripe. When I tried to swipe the card at a different turnstile it wouldn't register. Great.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Worst Seats In The House

To optimize the commuting experience, I need a high quality seat. What represents a high quality seat? For me, it's the aisle of a three-seater, no one in the middle, no bottles rolling around on the floor, and no sticky mystery liquid under my shoes. What's interesting about that? Probably nothing.

Bad seats make more interesting blog posts. Just as you can go to an event in a stadium or arena and get stuck behind a pole or a person with a tall hairdo, you can board public transportation and have a lousy experience because of where you sit. Today's post is about the worst seat in the house on trains and buses.

I'm going to tell you about the worst train seats. Our North Jersey Bus Correspondent, Chintan, will tell you about the evil of the final bus row.

Let's start with trains, shall we?

Photo courtesy of Long Island Fail Road,
Any seat in the six-seater. Unless your travels involve five other people you know, sitting in the six-seater stinks. There is a row of three seats facing another row of three seats. The legroom between them is minimal. Unless you keep perfectly still, you will find yourself playing foot games with the person across from you. See the guy without a face drinking a cheap beer in the photo for an illustration.

While any seat in the six-seater is awful, a middle seat in the six-seater is even worse. No legroom and no elbow room. I'd rather ride on top of the train car where I'd catch a nice breeze while ducking to avoid overpasses.

The vestibule. Some people will make do when there are no empty seats by sitting in the vestibule. There's no way I'm doing this, especially in the winter. The train floor gets grimy with salt, snow, slush, etc. I suppose it depends on just how badly you need to sit. Better bring a lot of Purell.

The wheelchair accessible benches. The newer M-7 train cars have an area near the vestibule where benches fold down for able-bodied people, but fold up so that wheelchair-bound folks have a place to park.

I never sit on those benches. Why? I don't think they really want people to sit there, because they're not designed for humans. The angle of those seat backs make you lean forward a little, just enough so that by the time you reach your destination, you feel about 100 years old. I'd rather stand.

Let's switch over to the buses now. Chintan told me about the dreaded final bus row. During rush hour, buses fill completely. If you're lucky, your fanny won't land in the final row.

The Evil Seats of the Final Bus Row. Talk about a rock and a hard place.  For those of you who may not be aware, typical New Jersey Transit buses have eleven rows with four seats (aisle in between), and a twelfth row with five seats. The twelfth row is the hell row. The evil seats reside on either side of the middle spot, and you're better off walking to work or calling in sick.

The last row's seat back is 90 degrees with no incline. Depending on the bus make and model, the row is adjacent to engine or the air conditioner, maximizing noise and odor. The row hangs off the back of the bus behind the rear wheels. Lucky twelfth row denizens get a roller coaster ride, without the headache of going to an amusement park.

That's just the row. Let's look at the evil seats.

In the two seats designated by red arrow in the crude drawing, you are completely helpless and out of control. You are squashed between the center and window seat occupants with your bag in your lap, praying there's no traffic.

The only alternative is to stand for the entire length of your commute or until someone gets off. Standing on a bus is not fun. A bus has to maneuver along highways, make turns on local roads, bounce over potholes, curbs, etc. Try navigating that while reading or playing on your smartphone.

The good news is that your day will only get better after sitting in.... the Evil Seats of The Last Row.

Thanks Chintan for your contribution. The evil seats of the back row sound a lot like the evil middle seat on the train. There's no easy commute anywhere, it seems. 

Keep sharing your travel tales, either by email or using #TTIV on social media. Commuting is a lot easier when we share and compare stories. 

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Blabber Car: The MTA Needs Visionaries

Recently, I published some thoughts on throwing in the towel and declaring the Quiet Car program a failure. I came up with a solution more likely to succeed, called the "Blabber Car." The Blabber Car would be a place for cell phone yammerers to annoy one another for the duration of their commute, leaving the rest of us in peace in other cars.

Given reader encouragement, I submitted my idea to the MTA Suggestion Box. I was pleased to get a fast response. Well, until I realized that just like the small envelope you get from the University when you apply to college, the fast response is merely an efficient rejection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Blabber Car!

How many times have I ranted about the quiet car and the blatant disregard people have for others? How many times have I sat in that car, needing some down time after a long day, only to have to listen to some blowhard drone on and on about nothing in particular for the entire ride? 

It occurred to me that maybe the failure of the quiet car program is due to the method. Maybe there should be a Mobile Phone Car, or a Blabber Car instead! I can't believe I never thought of this before. 

Put all the pariahs in one place. Everyone wins.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The New Penn Station Will Be Great!

Here's an old flyer about how much better the new Penn Station would be than the old Penn Station. I wonder if the copy writers actually believed what they wrote. New Yorkers rarely agree on much, but one thing we all agree about is the sad state of Penn Station.

The labyrinth with low ceilings, poor lighting, and fast food make it the kind of place that people immediately want to leave. There's much talk about improvements, rebuilding, and moving to the Farley Post Office across the street. I see very little actually happening. Maybe the next generation of commuters will have a better experience. For me, I look to spend as little time in the station as possible.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Unthinkable Happens In Valhalla

What a horrible story coming out of Valhalla yesterday. Seven people dead due to a train-car collision. My heart goes out to the people impacted by this.

As is typical of news reports, witnesses were quoted in one of the papers I read this morning. To my surprise, one of the quotes was attributed to an old friend who I haven't spoken to in some time but is often in my thoughts. He was on that train. I'm glad he was quoted instead of being named as one of the victims. 

I wish I had words that could make sense of something this devastating. We're all one mistake away from the other side. Don't forget to live.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Turnstile Is Sending A Message!

As I sit here watching the Super Bowl, my mind has wandered to subway behavior. Why, you ask? Because my mind always wanders to train behavior. And because I haven't written a blog entry in a week. So, it's time to delve into subway behaviors. 

Mostly I write about things I see on commuter trains, but the subway has its own flavor of oddities. Much has been said about the things people do on the subway, such as eat, dance, preach, hug the poles, sell candy, and sing. But I'm not going to do that. No, I'm going to look at the things people do before even getting to the platform.