10 Tips for My Fellow Mass Transit Riders [Egotistical Rant]

Now that I’ve been commuting via the DC Metro to work for over a year, I’ve noticed a number of things that my fellow commuters do that make the ride a bit more unbearable for, well, me. With rising gas prices, all forms of public transportation are seeing increased ridership, so that means less seats for me, less legroom to stretch, and more body odors to smell.

So since the trains and buses are becoming more packed every day with no end in sight, I’d like to put forth a number of tips to my fellow commuters so they don’t make me angry. As a note, at my last contract, my officemate often referred to me as “Angry Dude” because I came in so distressed about my ride on most days. So without further ado, here is my self-centered set of tips for…

Ways to Avoid the “Angry Dude” Commuter

Sure, this might just become a list of petty complaints about my fellow riders, but I’m hoping that I open up at least one person’s eyes about how they could make my life easier:

  1. Turn down the iPod: Ok, seriously, are you deaf? Do you know I can hear you listening to speed metal 5 rows back? Why do you have to listen to techno/rave music at 7am? Here’s a tip: Take out the earbuds while the iPod is still on. Hold them down at your waist (i.e. a few feet from your ears). Wait about 30 seconds for your ears to readjust. Then, if you can still hear the music (from the earbuds, not from inside your head), then you need to turn it down. Alot!
  2. Don’t smoke within 10 minutes of getting onto the train/bus: I know you’re addicted and also that standing around waiting for a ride is boring, but I don’t want to sit next to a stank who makes me want to puke for the next 50 minute ride. I know, I know, I can just move to another seat, but honestly this is all about me, not you. Quit the habit or at least consider other rider’s olfactory senses even if yours are shot from years of smoking.
  3. If people keep running into you, it means you need to move. I don’t know how many times I see some fool standing right off to the side at the bottom of an escalator where people need to turn to get to the train. Then s/he wonders why people keep pushing past. Same goes for numbnuts (usually a tourist, but not always) standing right in the middle of any walkway or in the path of a fare turnstile. Get out of the way!
  4. You should walk like you drive. By this I mean you should walk on the right, pass on the left. This goes for any type of walking in life (well, except for places like that crazy England), that people walking (or driving) slower should be on the right while I should be on the left. In DC, even the station announcements say “Stand to the right, pass to the left”.
  5. Take off the sunglasses. Unless you’re blind or have no eyes, there’s no reason you should be wearing shades. It’s just creepy because I know all you’re doing the whole ride is looking at my crotch. I know I’m sexy, but I’d rather see your glare than imagine where you’re looking.
  6. Shut up. There’s absolutely no reason to shout to the person whose ear is 8 inches from your mouth. It’s loud in the tunnels, but you don’t need to talk 5x as loud as normal. I don’t know how many conversations about top secret projects or wild drunken nights I’ve heard on the train.
  7. You don’t need to scream into the phone. Similar to #6, just because the tunnels are loud and you can’t hear the other caller, you don’t need to scream into the phone. I can talk at normal volume into the phone and Stacie hears me fine even if I can’t hear myself.
  8. Get to your seat. This isn’t the school bus where you had to scope out the best seat so you’re sitting with the popular kids. It’s the dang metro. Just get in, sit down or move out of the way so the 10 other people behind you don’t get shut out of the train.
  9. Don’t block the exits. This is to those people on the platform that crowd in so tightly to get onto the train when I have to get off that I feel like I’m running the gauntlet back in football training camp. I make it a point now to shoot out of the train like I lighted a jet-fueled fart and I’m traveling at supersonic speeds to the escalator. Get out of my way or you’ll get run over.
  10. Put muzzles on your kids. I don’t disagree with everyone being able to ride the train, but if you have an “energetic” child, please give them some type of activity to keep them busy (and kicking the back of my seat does NOT count!). And if you read to them, see #6 because I already know “Everyone Poops” by heart now. If all else fails, get off the train and administer some firm discipline before boarding the next train. I also don’t need to hear you ignoring your child or them crying for attention.

I won’t even ask if I’m out of line on any of these because I don’t think I am. Sure, I may be a little harsh, but if you have to ride the train 260 days per year, you’d understand too. What other things annoy you about riding public transportation?

Photo by Rion

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Thought of more… Like an elevator, let people gettting off get out before you cram in. Makes sense, no? And your laptop, shopping bag, or briefcase don’t get their own seat. If I’m tired of asking you to move them, I might just sit on them.

  • I definitely agree with the morning breath thing.

    As for the backpack, I always take mine off and put it between my feet if I have to stand. Obviously many others don’t have that same understanding of courtesy. However, I do notice that it’s more often the kids commuting to/from school rather than professional adults, but adults do commit this crime frequently too.

  • I love complaining about public transpo! My biggest peeve is with men: why do they feel the need to spread their legs as far as they possibly will go to take up each half seat to their side, unavoidably touching my own legs which are crossed so I can take up the least amount of space possible? what’s even worse is when they choose not to sit but use a handrail directly above the seat I’m sitting in, and still proceed to spread their legs so with each turn of the train their crotch lunges back and forth in the general vicinity of my face?

  • I’ve been a commuter for the last ten years and while it’s never been what I’d term a delightful experience, it’s at least been a manageable one. At times it was even a pleasure to unwind with a good read after a stressful day. Not any more. Between blaring i-pods and the school-agers screaming with laughter on their omni-present cell phones, it’s no longer possible to read on the train. The noise level, as ridership continues to increase, is deafening. And because we’re packed in like sardines in a can, someone is always coughing or sneezing directly into my face.

    A little courtesy would go a long way toward making the situation more tolerable.

  • Queues people. When in England, do as the rest of the English do and get into a neat orderly queue at the bus stop.

    On the escalator, stick to the right hand side. For every person that enjoys being on the tube in rush hour there are at least 10 trying to get it over with as quickly as possible and you are in the way.

    If you can’t find your ticket, don’t stop right in front of the gate to look for it.

    Wheeled suitcases are terrible at every single rail station.

  • As a fellow DC Metro rider (mostly the bus, though), I can’t disagree with anything here. I really HATE the folks who are paranoid about sitting next to windows. I don’t mind someone who insists on the aisle seat if s/he is getting off in a couple of stops, but if I have to push past someone twice, I’m gonna be pissed.

    I also hate parents who let their kids run around the Metro car shrieking. There is a place for that; it’s called a PLAYGROUND. No, I’m not a parent, but I don’t think it’s asking too much to request that parents demand their children use their “indoor voices” while on Metro. And if your child is running around and the train has to stop suddenly, your kid is going to get hurt.

    And I also hate the guys who spread their legs to approximate the wingspan of a 747. Just because I’m a short female doesn’t mean I don’t need the space.

    If you see someone carrying heavy grocery bags, be considerate, get up, and offer a seat.

    When it’s raining, please do NOT smoke in the bus shelter. Your right to a cancer stick ends where my nostrils begin, and some of us would like shelter from both the rain and your toxic smoke. Do not smoke on the escalators that lead into the stations. I truly wish Metro would remove those from the bottoms of the escalator. And I wish people would finish their damn ciggie and then enter the system. Or wait until they are completely out of the system to get their nic fix. Better yet, get the damn patch.

    General rule on escalators: Walk left, stand right. When you get to the end of an escalator, MOVE so other people don’t crash into you. And that sign about no strollers on the escalator? It applies to you, too, momma with the double wide. Fold it up or find an elevator.

  • I commute with my 3 year old every day on the DC Metro. I recently contacted Metro (WMATA) about the rules with regard to riding the escalators with children. FYI, they told me that for safety reasons, small children should stand NEXT to their parent, holding hands (as illustrated by the bright yellow warning signs at the top and bottom of each escalator and by the CPSC here: Indeed, they told me that their official, though unenforced, position is that nobody should be walking or running on the escalators at all (listen to the wording of that audio announcement carefully — it says something like “you’ll notice that most people stand to the right” — hardly a mandate).

    So my fellow travelers, please do not get angry with me for refusing to sacrifice the safety of my child (so that you may shave a precious 20 seconds off of your commute). There are 26,000 injuries to children every year on escalators, with the average age being 6 years old. We ALL have the right to use the escalators safely.

  • Not to belabor the point — but just in case people don’t believe that Metro does not endorse the “Walk Left/Stand Right” view, please see this Metro Q&A webpage

    Q: Could treads be painted differently on left and right halves to indicate where to walk versus where to stand?
    (Walk Left / Stand Right signs be posted).

    A: Metro does not encourage customers to Walk Left/Stand Right on our escalators. We recommend all customers
    stand while riding our escalators for their safety and for the safety of those around them.

  • @Rudy, my legs were made to propel me forward and I’m going to use them to climb up the escalator whether the person on the left likes it or not. Metro may not endorse it, but the majority of daily commuters does.

    As for kids, I would rather have my kid in front of me (and I do when our nieces are visiting) so that I can see exactly where they’re stepping and lift them up more easily if they need it.

    I don’t disagree with your motives for standing on the left, but you also need to understand that common use often trumps policy. If people are expecting to walk up the escalator to “shave 20 seconds off their commute”, then you need to be prepared for it.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. However, I tend to believe the escalator industry safety experts who categorically reject the notion that a child should ride in front of (rather than alongside) their parent. I tend to think they know what they’re talking about when it comes to safety.

    Also, while appreciate that common use often trumps policy, in many things, I’m not sure what you are suggesting that I “need to be prepared” for it. When I combine that statement with your earlier one that “I’m going to use [my legs] to climb up the escalator whether the person on the left likes it or not,” I fear you are suggesting that you will push your way past my child (who is actually the one who stands on the left), greatly increasing the safety risk.

    I sincerely hope that I am misreading your comments. However, if in fact I am reading you correctly, I would say that that anyone who subjects my child to a harmful or offensive touching (no matter how slight) in their quest to push past risks immediate arrest and criminal prosecution (as well as civil liability). I’m not being flip.

    Being a few minutes late into the office kind of pales in comparison to having to explain to the boss why you need to be bailed out of lock-up for assault, doesn’t it?

    Again, I hope I am just misunderstanding your comments and we can all just get to work and home in peace.

  • Rudy, I never have, nor will I, push someone out of the way, especially a child. However, I’m speaking for the thousands of other commuters who would like to just keep moving. I don’t think you understand how we just want to get to our jobs and get home, and when we’re used to just walking on the left and now there’s someone standing there, it annoys us. And that annoyance is the source of that “tip”.

    And I don’t really care what the “escalator industry safety experts” say. I’m perfectly capable of walking up a flight of stairs whether they’re moving or not. I have legs that propel me forward for a reason, not to just stand idly on a mindless moving machine. If I had my way, I’d remove the escalators altogether and just have elevators for those too weak or unable to climb.

    If you care about your kid’s safety that much, then ride the elevator. You can have your kid beside you, in front of you, on your shoulders, or in a stroller and I won’t care one bit.

  • Last comment on this (I promise).

    I find your admonition that I resort to using the elevator to avoid annoying you absolutely ridiculous. I have every right to take advantage of the benefits of escalator use as much as you do. Perhaps you ought to lobby for an “adults only” rule on the escalators. Good luck with that.

    So I think where we finally wind up is that you have offered a “tip” to inform me that my fellow travelers are “annoyed” when I duly obey the posted placards located at the end of each escalator and follow the guidelines of the escalator industry, METRO, the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (among others).

    To avoid annoying them, you appear to recommend I willfully disobey these many official authorities and ignore the well-documented increase the risk of injury to my 3 year old child.

    Your tip is noted. You’re annoyed. I got it.

    Now, after carefully weighing the annoyance of strangers against the safety of my child, I gotta tell you, it’s not even close.

    Please accept my apologies in advance — I’m afraid those of us who commute to work with our children in tow (and while perhaps not numbering in the thousands, there are quite a few of us) will continue to annoy you in the future.

  • Rudy, you’re allowed to follow the directions and I’m allowed to walk up the escalators. If you’re blocking the escalator just to be a jerk like you sound in your comment, then so be it. If you’re doing it because you truly believe it’s the right thing, then I commend you for following your beliefs.

    I’ll keep walking thank you.

  • I hate to admit it, but I am all about walking up the escalator, regardless what the signs say, and am highly annoyed with those who do not show the consideration for those of us who just need to get where we are going. And although I do agree with a parent’s reponsibility to keep their children safe, I also agree that sometimes parents need to make decisions that are both best for their child as well as the rest of the community. In this case it would be to take the elevator.

    BUT one of the things I hate the most about public transportation would be kids riding during crazy commute hours anyway. What is with the schools that think that going on a field trip at 7 or 8 am is a good idea? There is no fun part of a commute, but when you see a flock of kids pushing their way on the train all hope of having a decent day goes out the window. Same goes for those parents who take their kids on the train during the crazy commute hours. You would think that the parents were concerned with the safety of their children, and dragging them onto a busy train full of cranky people, or the potentially dangerous crime and violence that happens on a train doesn’t prove that point much. My husband commutes with our child and when he takes the train with her he shifts his hours to protect her from the crazy crowd in addition to being respectful of those just trying to get to work.

  • I can’t believe you didn’t add stand on the right walk on the left on escalators… when I lived in DC and rode the metro that dorve me crazy more than anything else….

  • A daily NYC subway rider, I whole-heartedly agree with nearly each sentiment! I have mixed feelings about the shades, because sometimes I just need to block out the harsh neon lights to catch a precious extra 15 min of sleep, but I know what you mean by the “everywhere stare”.

    I would also add, if you’re under the weather, stay above ground. Nobody wants your germs on the turnstiles, poles, or handrails, their faces…If you’ve no other option, bring copious Kleenex.

    My fav subway moment – a guy shelling peanuts and dropping them on the floor of a brand new subway car.

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