As do a lot of people, I commute on the train into the city, as well as grab two subways on the way into work in the morning. It’s a weird feeling sometimes sitting on the train by yourself, surrounded by so many people, yet no one’s talking to each other. I’ll be sitting in a 2-person seat by myself, but then some man in a business suit and a Kindle will sit next to me, reading an e-book in silence while I’m reading my softcover novel. It’s all very anonymous and almost awkward. Being from a small town where everyone knows each other, it’s new to me to feel like everyone’s in their own little world and don’t even notice the people around them. People looking straight ahead and walking in a million different directions is something unique all together – the final destination seems much more important than the actual trip there. Honestly, I’m all about people watching and taking in the atmosphere wherever I am, but the people I see rushing into the city with briefcases seem to just be walking fast, looking straight ahead, so sure of where they’re going that they miss where they actually are. How does a small town girl or basically anyone survive in an atmosphere different from one’s own?
Here are some tips that might help you in braving a big city:
1. Bring a book or music device to listen to during the train ride. The easiest way to fit into the anonymous lifestyle is join them. Personally, I like reading on 45 minute train ride into the city – everyone’s either sleeping, reading, or doing something work-related on the train, so why not enjoy the time you have to yourself and read or listen to your iPod? I know my train rides go faster and it’s less awkward to be sitting next to someone unknown when I have my distractions with me.
2. Go with the flow of traffic, just like you’re driving. Seriously, it can be REALLY easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of the city. You can just be stopping just to get your Metro Card out of your wallet, but everyone around you is still walking and will bump into you like you’re not there. Find a place away from people to remove your Metro Card or money. No one’s going to yield for you, so it’s good to know that and get used to the non-stop crowds.
3. Make sure not to take up too much room on the subway. If you have a bag with you, put it on your lap or hold it tight to your body. At the worst of congestion, the subway is packed with people holding onto the bars and sitting in every single seat, so don’t be rude and give your bag a seat, too. Or hit someone with your extra-heavy briefcase.
4. It’s okay to hold onto the bars on the subway. Actually, it could be dangerous if you don’t. The subway cars go mighty fast and could easily knock you over. Even if you’re worried about germs, it’s common practice and you’re lucky when you find a seat that you can squeeze into at the peak of commuter traffic.
5. People watch. It’s fun. Seriously, I get most of my relaxation from just observing other people whether it’s on the train into the city or on the subway. One of my favorite games is to try and decipher the music emanating really loudly from someone’s headphones. This game gets especially intriguing if you hear music you didn’t expect from one of the starched-suited commuters. For example, I could hear “Rude Boy” by Rihanna blasting out from the headphones of this impeccably dressed businesswoman in a pants suit. People are interesting to observe, so if you’re able to subtly people watch without disturbing anyone, all the better.
6. Follow a crowd when crossing the street. Cars, buses, and other intensely driven vehicles are more likely to stop when there’s a crowd of people crossing the street as opposed to a lone commuter trying to cross by themselves. Always be careful of rushed drivers – not everyone yields to pedestrians!
7. Keep your wits about you at all times. I see tons of people listening to their iPods or talking on their phones while walking onto busy subway trains, but I personally think that’s kind of dangerous. You don’t know who’s around you or what could happen when you’re not paying attention. Stay aware of your surroundings and you’ll be safer in the big commuter rush.
7. Make sure to get all the caffeine you need before the commute. If you’re dead tired in the morning, you could miss your subway stop or worse, walk into incoming traffic if you’re not careful. Make sure you’re awake and ready to face the busy day!