11 Things Every New York Commuter Understands


For those who work outside NYC and have the esteemed privilege of owning a car, getting to work seems like a one-shot deal, with the exception of an occasional traffic jam. For those of us who aren’t so lucky, we have to rely on other modes of transportation, including trains, bikes, buses, and even our own legs. Unfortunately, these alternatives to driving aren’t always so reliable. They’re often jam-packed, dirty, smelly, and downright tiring. Some of us get so fed up with everything (from Razor scootering to cabs) that we come up with some pretty unorthodox ways to get around town. Keep reading for 11 things every New York commuter understands!

1. There is no such thing as personal space.

Nothing says “Rise & Grind” on a Monday morning quite like having someone leaning up against the pole in a subway car so close to you that their ass cheek is literally resting on your shoulder or arm as you sit. There’s also a pretty good chance that you’ll be sitting packed like sardines, with your legs and thighs and arms intertwined in ways that get a little more intimate than you would like. When on a bus or train, you’re a pin in a bowling alley getting knocked and slammed around with every sudden stop. If you’re short, you’re basically bouncing off of everyone like a pinball since you’re too small to reach the high bars and your arms can’t reach the poles when it’s so packed. Good luck, and maybe consider bringing a helmet?

2. It’s perpetually loud.

Horns, screaming, sirens, music…Good luck even finding a moment of silence on your commute.

New York commuter

3. You see some weird ****.

From those people who decide to breakdance in the most densely populated train car you’ve ever seen in your life, to magicians, to people relieving themselves between subway cars in broad daylight, to musicians, to contortionists performing as they cross the street, to even the lady who straight up has several cats spilling out of her backpack on the bus, man have I SEEN THINGS. Can’t make this stuff up, people! At first, you’re shocked. Sooner or later you come to understand that it’s just another day in NYC and you don’t even bat an eyelash at the sight of such bizarre occurrences.

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4. Being that person who wears their sunglasses on the train.

I’ll admit it: I own several pairs of big sunglasses with dark lenses that I wear whether it’s sunny or rainy, wherever I am. It helps me avoid making eye contact with the peddlers and swindlers, lets me people watch unknowingly and lets me sleep until my stop, if needed. Don’t feel weird about it – just go for it. You never know what uncomfortable or unsafe situation it will get you out of. Plus, it’s clutch for hiding the bags under your eyes in the AM.

5. Rush hour is brutal.

On weekdays between the hours of 7 AM and 10:30 AM and anywhere from 3:30 PM to 7 PM depending on how close your stops and locations are to a school, you’re going to be getting up close and personal with a whole lot of people. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, NJ Transit and Grand Central Station are all war zones.

6. It’s wet, any way you slice it.

Since you and your fellow commuters spend so much time stuck together like glue, it’s only natural that things get a little sticky. Regardless of whether it’s summer or winter: YOU WILL SWEAT. Layers and a parka in a packed train? Sweaty. 96 degrees and humid on the platform? Sweaty. Heat cranked all the way up? Sweaty. Air conditioner busted? Sweaty.

7. It always smells.

This doesn’t necessarily mean bad. From the sweat of other people, to a whiff of someone’s cologne or coffee on the way in the morning, to whatever convoluted meal someone may be trying to have as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on the bus (which, by the way, eating a full meal on public transit is one of the easiest ways to get everyone to hate you and talk about you out loud passive aggressively), you’re going to be smelling a whole lot of things from the moment you walk out your door to the second you sit down at your desk. Black garbage bags left overnight to fester in the brutal early morning summer sun, the smell of peanuts roasting at a food cart down the corner, you get quite the array of scents. It’s sensory overload, but you learn to live with it.

8. The weather is always a hit or miss fashion faux pas.

The rush and time it requires to get to work on time often leaves you a little lackadaisical, so you might not get the chance to really check your weather forecast. It might not matter while you’re making the commute, but if it decides to rain, snow, hail, whatever and you don’t have the proper gear on, you are S.O.L. It’s just such a drag to carry a wet umbrella or a cumbersome jacket around with you everywhere you go, on top of whatever backpack or bag you already may have on you. Sometimes you just don’t care about what you should wear and let the elements do as they please – too much effort.

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9. If you’re early, you’re late. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re late.

Most of us who have experience with relying on mass transit to get us where we need to be attempt to compensate for the expected train delays and reroutes, as well as the unexpected things that come along on the way to work, by leaving as soon as we can. It doesn’t matter if you get to your station or stop at the crack of dawn; once you get on the subway and lose cell service, the length of your journey and proximity to your destination is at the hands of the MTA gods (more like demons). You can do whatever you want to plan ahead, but that guarantees you nothing.

10. To be corny is to be comfortable.

The stereotype of a “True New Yorker” is that we all dress to the nines 24/7. For the most part, yeah, we look good. However, the one thing a smart commuter will not sacrifice is their feet. Whether it’s standing up in a crowded car, on line for the bus, or trying to exercise with a walk home from work on a nice day, you would rather be caught dead than with toe pinching, blister making shoes of any sort. Here is where you have to be careful, though: Really reconsider your flip-flops. I know that they are tempting and lightweight, easy to shove into a bag and slip on and off on command, but on a day that your feet sweat too much, it’s raining, or somebody gives you a flat tire in the middle of the street, you’ll be barefoot. BRING YOUR RUNNING SHOES. With them, you can catch the next connection, bypass slow walkers, and get where you need to go relatively unscathed, even if somebody accidentally tramples your feet. It may look silly, but the real sign of a professional New York commuter is when you look down from that tailored suit or pencil skirt and peep those Sketchers Shape Ups. No joke.

11. Work becomes your safe haven.

Although most normal people dread coming into work in the morning, walking into the office signals that you’ve made another journey there hopefully unstained, unbruised and with just as much money as you left the house with. You now have a moment to sit and focus your mind on other things. Until the workday is over, anyway…

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Featured image sources: newyork-wallpapers.com, citylandscapes.
Article image sources: society19.com/shira_federman,


Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Wandy is currently a third year French/English double major at St. John’s University in New York City. She is also a member of Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Phi Omega, and loves meeting new people and trying new things. Her hobbies include travel, trying every standard and seasonal flavor at coffee shops, and of course writing! She’s stoked to be a contributing writer for this new chapter of Society19!

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