Railroaded, Part II

11 Jan

Since I had so many people tell me that they loved the “Railroaded” post – one of my co-workers kept saying “so damn funny” every time he walked by me yesterday – and so many people responded with some railroaders of their own, I thought I’d write “Part II” to it.

As I said in “Railroaded” – that was written in 2010 – a few months after I restarted commuting to downtown Chicago on the Metra rail system for work. In the ensuing 2 ½ years since then, I’ve had occasion to observe a whole lot more folks, so let’s get started.

The Cosmetologist – Everyone who commutes sees this – and unfortunately everyone who commutes by car sees this. It is the women who apparently don’t have enough time to get their makeup done in front of the bathroom mirror, so they save the effort for when they hit the train or worse, get in the car to drive to work. In fact, straight across the train from me at this very moment, is a woman putting on her makeup. Her picture is below. Now … let’s be honest, among annoying tendencies, this is probably the smallest one – they don’t take up a ton of room, they don’t make noise, no weird smells, etc.

A Cosmetologist in action this morning

But, there’s always this guy:

The Razorman: I don’t experience it too often but every now and then you’ll see this – a guy whips out an electric shaver, fires up the fuzz-buzz and proceeds to “mow” his face. Thankfully, it’s not a real long time to listen to the buzz, and it’s again, a bit limited, but … nonetheless, having used plenty of electric shavers in my day, I do know those tend to generate a cloud of clipped hair as they operate, and well … it’s a bit gross. And once, just once, I watched a guy use a standard Gillette twin blade razor on the train – dry shaving himself as the train lurched and vibrated along. Really?

The Oral Hygenist: Again, you ride the train long enough, you see everything. Always there’s the toothpick guys – guys with a toothpick in their mouths, chewing on it. When this gets gross is when they throw them onto the floors. But … I’ve seen it all – full-on toothbrushing, using a water bottle and a coffee cup to rinse and spit, of course lots and lots of flossing, which again, is just something you don’t want to see. And mouthwash – but what’s amazed me on the mouthwash guys is that they seem to swallow it – and it usually is a fairly drunk dude riding a late train out to home after an after-work bender.

We’ll end the personal grooming habits, with one woman I liked to call “the reverse stripper“. I caught her routine about four times. She rode the train last summer and I’d put her age at “in college” or early 20s most likely. Young woman, likely headed to the city for an internship. She was riding the train from an earlier stop than mine, so I never saw her get on, but on the train, she’d be sound asleep behind huge sunglasses, a sweatshirt or other baggy t-shirt, and pajama pants with wet hair pulled up into a pony tail. She always carried a big sports bag. At some point in the ride about 15-20 minutes before we hit downtown, she would literally get dressed for work. Again, you see a lot of things on the train, but this little phenomena caught my eye when I happened to see her pull a bra out of her bag, slip it up under her big t-shirt, pull her arms in and put it on! Then, using an odd combination of plenty of dexterity with some illusion mixed in, she managed to then put on a blouse over the t-shirt and somehow slip the shirt over her head without exposing the rest of us (much) to too much of her, then sort of half-stood-up in her seat, shimmied into a little skirt over the pajama pants, and remove the pajama pants. Then a cute pair of heels came out of the bag, and she was done – she then turned into a “Cosmetologist” to do her hair and makeup, and of course the crowning touch was just a touch of cologne which wafted through the car erasing the coffee aroma. Everything else went into the bag, and when we stood up to leave, there she was – a young girl ready for work in a big downtown office. Pretty crazy! I honestly have to say I was impressed by her ingenuity. Now calling a category from yesterday, she was also a “Seat Hog” so she had the room to do this.

These days of 60 hour work weeks and the like, both train rides and train riders have changed a lot. With wireless internet, you can work from everywhere, so on every train, every morning you have:

“The Executive”: The executive is someone who is working 100% nonstop all the time on the train. They get on the train, out comes the laptop, usually there’s a wireless USB or hotspot involved, and they are off to the races. Now, this isn’t at all unusual, and I fit this category most days in the “light” version – at the computer, catching up on email, occasionally doing some writing, reviewing, etc. – but the “heavy” version is where it gets ridiculous – they turn their seat into a rolling office. On Metra trains at the end of each car compartment that is the “front” in the direction of travel, there are a pair of seats that face each other. Metra trains, they flip the direction of the seats to always face forward – the seatbacks flip over to do this. So, those facing seats are desirable because it is the only place where being a Seat Hog is acceptable behavior. There isn’t enough room, unless you’re married to the person across from you, or you’re with your kids, to seat four in those facing seats but two Seat Hogs fit nicely. There’s one woman that rides my train line most days and she’s a classic Heavy Executive. She always grabs that double seat section, spreads out across her two seats, opens files, lays out work, does stuff on her computer, and … holds conference calls. It’s all good until she dials into her 7:30 AM conf call. She is clearly the boss, and she’s clearly talking to a group of her staffers that are already in the office. In a loud, stern voice. And by the tone of her voice and how she runs that meeting, well … she doesn’t sound like a pleasant person in the least to work for or with.

Again, I do the The Executive Light thing most days, but I rarely hold conference calls from the train, and when I do, I use my headphones and do my best to keep my voice very low.

Phone Jerk: And speaking of keeping your voice very low, there’s these idiots. We’ve all experienced them. Their phone rings and they proceed to have a phone conversation at normal speaking tones, and they will say ANYTHING – even though it’s in public. I’ve heard people shouting at their kids and spouses, guys trying to arrange to get lucky, girlfriends speaking to girlfriends describing their dates IN DETAIL (yes, even THOSE details! I never thought I’d ever hear “Oh my God, his XXX was so small, I almost started laughing” on a train. But I have.) And the behavior isn’t limited to those that speak English. In fact, I think if you speak Russian, you must think it’s OK to talk loudly on the phone the entire train ride.

And since this train ride is approaching Chicago, I’ll end with this person:

The Petri Dish: Yup, it’s the sick guy or gal on the train, bus or airplane. Hack, wheeze, sneeze. Big wet drippy exhortations of the cold and flu season. Blowing of noses, coughing jags, huge sneezes, etc. etc. Touching everything and spreading the love everywhere they go. Having flown so much and for so many years, thankfully, I think I’ve got the immune system of an alley cat. I very rarely get sick (and by saying that, I’ve doomed myself), but when I do, I’m positive it is because of one of these jerks who cannot figure out that they should take a sick day until they stop being contagious.

Well, another “Railroaded” post has been crafted on yet another train ride. Hope you enjoyed the ride! And, stay tuned for “Railroaded III – the Late Night edition” … oh yeah. Riding Metra at night is a trip for sure!

As you were,



One Response to “Railroaded, Part II”

  1. Linda Covert Campbell January 11, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    While food shopping yesterday, there was a woman who always seemed to be one aisle over from me, talking very loudly into presumably, a phone. She wasn’t speaking English and perhaps subliminally I was trying to hear a word of 2 of what she was saying…it wasn’t familiar. Finally she got into the aisle I was in going the opposite way and I could hear very clearly some of the words she was using…..she was speaking Swahili!!
    Now I ask you, in this small white bread Iowa town, at Hy-Vee do you bump into someone carrying on a loud phone conversation in Swahili?
    People are always entertaining.

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