What Never to Do on Public Transportation

Alternate title:  Everyone hates you.

Alternate, alternate title: Everyone’s thinking it, and everyone’s saying it, so why are you still doing it.

As a daily frequenter of D.C.’s public transportation system, I, like each of my fellow commuters, encounter situations every day that make my crawl itch with indignation.  Did you really just sneeze in my face?  or, Sir, I can hear every word of that song, and I’m not impressed with the artist’s [lack of] vocabulary.  or, my personal favorite, the “why did you have to sit next to ME” conundrum.
Anyone who has ever ridden any form of public transportation can understand.  Our fellow passengers are smelly, loud, rude, and seemingly oblivious to the effect their lack of manners can have upon our day.  So, as a public servant and terribly concerned citizen, I decided to make this handy-dandy list of “Public Transportation Definitely Don’ts.”  The first part will be fairly one-sided, and not ultimately un-biased; many arose from situations I’ve had to deal with.  Three of these happened just last evening on my trip into SW to visit my good friend and fellow Bughuul fan, Sir Sandford Bass.

Keep in mind, I ride WMATA almost exclusively.  But, as a traveler very familiar with SEPTA, and after a three-month stint living in London and riding the  Tube/Underground to work/class, I can confidently say these annoyances are sadly concurrent in each system.  I would imagine the Chicago L, the San Fran BART,  the Orlando Lynx buses, and every other public transit method in the world share the same occurrences of rude, rude, rudeness.

Without further ado, here are my tips for the conscientious public transit rider:

1. If you’re a 10 year old boy, you don’t need to be yelling loudly to the rest of the passengers on the train about how you want to “fuck the girl in the corner.”  [The girl in the corner?  Yours truly, just trying to listen to my music and quietly play my game of Klondike.]

2. Stop staring through the window at the conductor and yelling.  Do you want the train to crash?  He/she is the only thing between you and an accident, and you’re playing with fire.  Get off.

3. Don’t ride public transportation if you have alcohol poisoning.  Seriously, do not.  Your fellow passengers do not want to deal with your unconscious, vomit-covered body while you snooze off obliviously.  That probably sounds harsh, but maybe it needs to.   [That being said, DEFINITELY don’t attempt to drive if you’re drunk.  If it’s between the two, take the public transportation.  Otherwise, find a quiet corner and sleep it off.]

4. Please keep your wandering eyes and misogynistic comments to yourself.  You have the freedom to find anyone interesting or attractive, but if you’re that concerned with getting his/her phone number or taking him/her on a nice dinner for two, your best bet does not involve making rude comments or staring obsessively.

5. If I can spot four rows of empty seats, you can too.  Please refrain from blocking my exit by choosing the one row in the entire car that is already occupied by yours truly.

6. Shower before getting on public transportation.  If you don’t have access to a shower, purchase some deodorant and wet wipes, which should tide you over until you do.  If you can’t afford deodorant and wet wipes, how did you get on this train in the first place?

7.  Ladies, don’t spray your perfume on a train or bus.  If the rest of us don’t appreciate the scent, or are asthmatic, or somehow find the fragrance offensive, we have no way of escaping until the next stop comes.

8.  Don’t make offensive jokes about race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.  I mean, you should never do that anyway, but certainly not in a public forum.  You never know who may be listening. And certainly don’t threaten to kill any American that crosses your path [because little do you know the quiet girl sitting across from you is now terrified someone will speak to her and she’ll have to respond, revealing her American accent and incurring your murderous wrath).

9.  Take your stinky food outside.  Many public transit services won’t even allow you to have it, so why do you feel the desire to eat your egg-salad-tunafish sandwich RIGHT NOW?  Everyone hates you.

10.  If you want to stand on the escalator, stand on the RIGHT SIDE.  Never, ever, under any circumstances, stop walking if you’re on the left.  Move the hell over because one day, you’re going to get pushed down/up.  Have you ever been in a vehicle?  The left lane is for PASSING.

11.  Sorry, why are you making out next to me, again?  Why is your hand up her skirt?  You know you’re in public, right?

And now, some thoughts from the outside:

I thought it might be fun to solicit some opinions other than my own about the outrageous behavior they’ve noticed on public transportation.  Here is an abbreviated list of Do’s and Don’ts.

1. If you plan to ride public transportation in different country, and you don’t speak the language, take three seconds out of your life to learn a few key phrases [and please heed the personal hygiene tip above].  Read the map BEFORE getting on.  Have a least an idea of where you’re going.  Otherwise, you will end up stranded on a fast-moving vehicle with no idea where you are, and no way to communicate with people around you who might be able to help.  And, BATHE.  You’re acting as an ambassador for your country, and right now, you’re making everyone want to vomit.  [Thanks to Nicole Smallwood for the story!]

2. If you are drunk, try to take a sober buddy with you on the train.  That way, you’ll be guaranteed to make it home safely, and you won’t try to drunkenly steal other people’s things when your impaired brain convinces you they’re actually yours.  [Thanks to Connor Weber.]

3.  If someone tries to start a fight, just say no.  We all get the temptation to crack a few skulls every now and then, but there is a time and a place–and the place is certainly not next to old women with their groceries.  They can’t get away, man.  Take it outside.  [Thanks again to Connor.]

4.  Don’t follow people when they are clearly trying to avoid you.  It’s probably because you didn’t have the courtesy to clean yourself before boarding, or you’re generally weirding them out.  Tailing them as they switch cars is the second-to-last thing you should do, followed only by intentionally touching other people.  That is the worst thing you can do.   [Thanks to Kimba and Liz Green, and I’m really sorry that happened.]

5. DO practice moderation when imbibing on the train/bus (if that’s even something you can get away with).  If you shotgun multiple beers, you’re probably going to throw up, and your fellow passengers might skin you alive.  So, keep it simple.  Buy a flask.  Put your booze in a thermos.  Do what you gotta do.  [Thanks to Issac Carpenter for the tip.]

6. Don’t throw up in taxis.  The driver will hate you, as will the next rider.  [Well, now you know, IC.]

7.  Making verbal assumptions about your fellow passengers will lead to some awkward underground time.  Sorry you missed out on hot dogs at the Nats game, but you’re stretching it a bit by blaming all the white people around you.  [Thanks to La la LaPorte.]

8. If the bus/train is packed, you can safely assume that your bags do not really NEED their own seat.  See that elderly lady wobbling next to you, because she can’t reach a good handhold?  Yeah, maybe you’re right, your skateboard DOES need the seat more than she does.  [Thanks to Kate Hutchinson aka Mermaniac for the tip.]

9. DO come up with great names for your fellow riders.  It’s a fun way to pass the time.  DON’T, however, say them out loud.  Yeah, maybe that guy IS a bitch ass bitch, but he doesn’t necessarily need to know it.  [Double kudos to KHutch.]

Phew, that was long.  And sadly, these lists barely nick the surface of the problem.  But I will say this.  We have all been THAT GUY on public transportation at some point.  I spilled my ice coffee on the Red Line last week and didn’t clean it up.  Shit happens, we all have bad days, and we can easily be forgiven for these mishaps.  But when you become a repeat offender, you must be stopped, and I hope this was mostly useful to all those clueless PT riders–and only a little offensive.  Because hey, what is life without a little conflict and a few hurt feelings.

Now, I have to go take care of my cat because WOOPS, she has herpes.  No one panic; the kitty herp is not the same as the human kind.  But her eyes are drippy and her face is sneezy and she kind of hates her life right now.  I don’t blame her.

Until next time!  

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