Thursday, September 12, 2013

Novice Rules for Public Transit


The buses that never come around my city, like, ever, don't really provide a true public transportation experience. Downtown Indianapolis tries, but the experience seems like it would be lacking. Plus, I have a car, don't live anywhere near downtown Indianapolis, and don't need to burden myself with the bus.

People from small cities are members of a vast community, and we prove our membership by showing off our Transportation V-Cards. We have our cars; we don't need to ride a bus or train around our city. But, when we go to someone else's city -- say NYC -- driving our precious little vehicles is not longer an option.

That's when we present our Transportation V-Card and get it punched.

There needs to be a shop where we can purchase t-shirts, bags, hats and the like to help let the urban aborigines know that we are here! As we fumble at the MetroCard machine, trying to read its mind, we probably make ourselves quite obvious.

Or hated.

You decide.

Which brings me to a couple of rules I learned on the go as a public transit participant.

Novice Rule #1

You will need a MetroCard for your bidding, and you will have no idea how to do it. You will fumble through the process, exposing yourself to the locals -- even if you read all about these machines online.

The machine will look at you and say one thing: "Fool."

This little cardboard rectangle is the end-all-be-all of public transit. In order to get one of these cards, you have to befriend a machine. They look like an ATM, but it sure doesn't act like one.

If you're the type of tourist that tries to fit in, you're screwed. It's a done deal. You will insert your debit card, push buttons, talk quietly to the machine and be simply clueless (even after reading 15 different websites for research).

No matter how fancy you dress for your first days in NYC (to fit in), you will feel the burn from local onlookers' eyes as they bore hatred into the back of your head. You can look, talk and act as east-coast as you want, but the minute you want to ride public transportation, the jig is up. You might as well hold a sign that says, "I'm a proud member of the Transportation V-Card Club."

After our first day in the city, we boarded the subway car and it
was clean and quiet. I have a feeling this doesn't happen until 3 a.m.,
and when we left the city, it was definitely not 3 a.m.
Novice Rule #2

Whether train or subway, no eye contact must you make.

Railway transportation is merely an elevator that holds more people and travels horizontally. You will sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the locals, much like the elevator. You will be uncomfortably close to another's personal business, much like the elevator.

But unlike the elevator, you will also be face-to-face with people, instead of face-to-back. This interaction gives the illusion that you're supposed to talk to people. Or look at them. Or acknowledge them. Or breathe.

The novice will come across a simple conundrum right away: to wear, or not to wear sunglasses while riding in the train car. Wearing sunglasses may help you fit in, but let's be realistic people -- you've already sold yourself out by crying at the MetroCard machine. The minute you put your sunglasses on, to avoid eye contact, you run the risk of igniting eyerolls from other passengers (while wearing their own sunglasses, so you have no clue of their disgust).

Because, if you're really from the east coast -- you are already wearing sunglasses. To put them on after you get on the train or subway is like wearing a sandwich board of tourist shame.

Just watch a cat video on your phone. Whether you fit in won't matter anymore while you giggle in glee while watching a kitty do something so utterly feline.