anne mikolay 2018Dear New Jersey Transit Commuter,

Riding New Jersey Transit is the best way to learn firsthand how small the world can be.

Fellow rider, everyone wants a seat on the train in the morning. Racing to the edge of the platform and nudging people aside so you can be the first to board is unnecessary. There’s no need to race me to a seat. There is no first class, no prime seating. When the train is on time, there’s plenty of seats for all of us. Passenger traffic will flow more easily if you aren’t obsessed with getting a seat.

In case you haven’t noticed, fellow rider, we’re traveling in limited space. If you accidentally bump into me, no problem. It happens. If there isn’t room enough for your bags on the floor, no problem. I’ll shift over a bit. But I am not going to refrain from asking you to move your belongings off the seat beside you. I paid for my ticket, too, and I will not be intimidated so you can sit alone. This isn’t kindergarten; there’s no “saving” seats on the train.

It’s very nice that you have the latest iphone; lucky you, but your fellow riders don’t need to hear your personal conversation. Perhaps you need reminding: this car is filled with sleepy passengers hoping to catch a few winks before the train pulls into Penn Station, and workaholics tapping away at ipads, trying to concentrate and get a headstart on their day. It’s not even 7:00 a.m. yet; we don’t want to listen to your cell phone chatter and your flirtations with your boyfriend. We don’t care that you were “really, really, really out of it” the night before or that you were “honestly, really!” wearing the sweater he gave you. We don’t want to hear your silly giggles, and we definitely don’t enjoy your constant use of the words “like” or “you know”, or your irritating habit of turning declarative sentences into questions. You sound like, you know, the stereotypical 80s valley girl, and loudly carrying on is so, like, you know, really ignorant, like, really, really, you know?

Apparently, you like music. I, too, believe in making a joyful noise and often can’t resist dancing a little or singing a bit when I hear certain songs, but I know there’s a time and place for everything, and the early morning North Jersey Coast train is inappropriate for your tunes. Your use of headphones defies logic when you’re piping music into the entire train car. We also don’t want to hear you singing or see you gyrating in your seat. It’s terrific that you’re an energetic morning person, but most of us are not. We just want to ride in peace; your serenade and constant movement is disturbing on many levels.

I hope you enjoyed your bagel and your coffee. I’m sure when you get off the train, the next passenger who sits in your vacated seat will appreciate the crumbs you left behind and the empty coffee cup and paper bag you tossed on the floor. You have a backpack strapped to your shoulders; surely, you’re not going to buckle under the additional weight of a paper bag or styrofoam. Put your trash temporarily in your backpack. When you disembark, you’ll notice several trash bins on the platform. Feel free to use one.

New Jersey Transit rider, we’re all going somewhere, whether it’s to a subway connection, to the office, or to an appointment. Yes, we’re all rushing; time is ticking away, but we’ll get there when we get there. Pushing and bumping into one another doesn’t help any of us. We’re all in this together, so to speak, or at the very least, we’re all in this train car together. We have to get along and not infringe upon one another’s space as best we can. So, fellow commuter, take a deep breath, appreciate your surroundings, and chill.

Indeed, riding New Jersey Transit is a lesson in how small - and small-minded - the world can be.