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After Road Rage, Train Rage

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As gas prices rise and household income falls, more people are discovering the life of the strap hanger. Riding the train to work--if you still have a job and your city has a train--saves time and money and removes the daily irritants of driving in road traffic. Unfortunately, it brings new irritants.

Catching the train--not

When a train is approaching and you need to add money to your fare card fast, people who've never used the fare card machines decide it's time to learn--now. Behind them are people with borderline obsessive compulsive disorder depositing a decade's worth of nickels one at a time.

If the train is approaching and no one is at the fare card machines, it's because they are out of order. Too many nickels.

It they are working and you add your fare, a crowd will materialize from the last train and swarm the turnstiles and you'll still miss your train.

If a merciful station agent sees your dilemma and lets you through the handicapped entrance so you can run for your train, it will be going in the other direction. Or, if it is going in the right direction, the engineer will see you, hesitate and pull away as you yell and flail your arms.

If you don't run for the train refusing to do the same thing twice and expect different results, it will remain in the station to tempt you. But once you move toward it, it will pull away. (See Charlie Brown/football)

If the train waits for you and lets you board, it will proceed 500 yards and then stop for five minutes--especially if you are late for work. If it's cold out, it will sit with its doors opening and closing inexplicably or with the doors completely open. Aren't you glad you caught your train?

If the "Train Arriving Now" sign is not blinking and you take your time, the train will be arriving now--it just that the sign is broken. Sorry about that.

Inclement Weather

When it's cold out and the heat lamps are working, you won't be able to get near them because of the crowds.

If it's not cold out and the heat lamps are working in error, you won't be able to get away from them because of the crowds.

If the heat lamps aren't on and you try to turn them on, you'll turn on a loud message that says "customer needs assistance on platform one." No one will come to assist the customer--good to know in a real emergency--nor will the heat come on.

Wayfinding

If you're getting off at an unfamiliar stop, the PA system that calls stops will be broken. If you ask someone if you have the correct stop, they will always say yes whether they know or not, trying to be helpful. If there's an overhead map, the area you are interested in will be covered with graffiti.

Finding a Seat

When a train car is full except for one seat, the seat will be covered with what you hope is Sprite.

If there's another seat, it will be next to the end doors where you'll be the first person that emotionally disturbed people and panhandlers see when they move from car to car almost taking off your legs with the door.

If you have to stand, you'll be pushed by someone with a 40 pound backpack against the "call operator" button and the engineer will yell at the car for the false alarm as everyone glares at you.

If you get a seat, your seatmate will broadcast unsolicited geopositioning and time information on her cell phone ("I'll be there in 10 minutes; I'm at Clark & Lake") interspersed with boyfriend play-by-play. ("So I go/so he goes") while you are trying to read.

If your seatmate isn't a cell phone addict and you're enjoying the quiet, you're about to go underground.















































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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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Don't forget the people who will whip out thei... by wagelaborer on Wednesday, Sep 24, 2008 at 10:51:40 AM
As someone who actually worked on such a system fo... by Eddy Schmid on Thursday, Sep 25, 2008 at 1:34:36 AM