Today while waiting for the train home, I noticed a new announcement on the boards regarding “ETIQUETTE TIPS” – stand to the side while people de-train before you board. It made me think about how much ‘unspoken’ rules come in to play while you’re on public transportation – and even moreso how angry it can make one (me) when people don’t follow it.
Waiting for people de-training before stepping in seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not. It’s easy as a commuter, who goes through the daily routine and optimized flow and everyone around seems to adapt to the same standard. But for anyone else, the ‘rules’ aren’t known; what’s worse is that those who do have an understanding of correct etiquette, including myself, don’t do anything to help spread the word. Everyone becomes passive and just deals with disturbances in the environment or procedure, but underneath it’s bubbling and eating at them. No one likes to confront other people, lest it make things uncomfortable or potentially dangerous.
Here are the basics that are expected while commuting on Caltrain: board properly, bikes on/off first, use headphones, take phone calls outside the seated compartment, and keep your feet off the seats. Actually, those last two are explicitly stated by conductors when the train leaves 4th and King – but of course only 20% of the riders on that route will hear it. Almost everyone who takes the trains in the AM follow these rules well, because no one else is riding the train that early except commuters. Afternoons/evening rides back to the City, especially when there’s a Giants game, are a whole different story, but let’s stick to the mornings and go through a few experiences I’ve had.
On one morning ride, I got on and sat in the back row only to look to my right and see a hipster looking guy laid out on two seats, his shoes off and his socked feet propped up on the railing. And damn, they STANK. The first thing I did was Instagram it, because Instagram. I sat there fuming for another 10 minutes until the smell finally got unbearable, and then I took sweet vindictive action – I wrote a passive aggressive note, left it in his shoe and tapped his leg as I walked away. I’m a badass, I know. This was absolutely ineffective, because just a few weeks ago I saw the same dude doing the same shit again.
Another morning, I got on the train and was especially exhausted and wanted to sleep the 25 minutes to Redwood City; I sat down, and after a few minutes all I heard was terrible house music blasting someone’s eardrums out. I looked, and a bearded hipster (not biased I swear) was jammin out, completely unaware at how loud it was. I was annoyed, and couldn’t sleep but didn’t say anything. After a few minutes the person behind me asked if I heard it, and just made some comment about how obnoxious it was, but neither of us did anything. After another 10 minutes, the guy at the back of the row came down stomping, pulled the dude’s headphone off his ear and yelled “HEY GUY, THE ENTIRE TRAIN CAN HEAR YOUR SHIT.” and walked happily back. The music went down after that.
The lesson I guess is that when people don’t follow unspoken etiquette, it gets to everyone. It slows the flow (especially in high paced places like NYC), disrupts peace and makes everyone just a little angrier. People don’t like to confront or correct, though. So please, be mindful and keep your stanky feet off the seats.
TL;DR: follow the rules on the train or feel the wrath of my angry notes.