Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We commuters are a diverse bunch.  Most of us are completely benign and totally boring.  But, there are those select few who stand out.  Anyone who rides Metro or the bus knows what I'm talking about.  I've already discussed the famous Seat Hog, the Loud Cellphone Talker, the Sick Passenger, the Transit Groomers, and the Aisle Surfer, to name a few.  A quick survey of my fellow travelers (via Twitter*) and a pretty good list of Metro-types came about.  Please allow me to expand on these below.

The Snoozer: fairly self-explanatory, this is the passenger who sleeps as if they're at home cuddled up on their memory foam mattress rather than jammed into a slow-moving commuter train.  I always marvel at these people and their peaceful slumber.  Sleep on the train? I'd be afraid of what might happen to me . . . my luck and I'd end up in Rockville wearing nothing but my sneakers.  A special subset of this group are those that have their mouths wide open and snore.  That's a special kind of magic.  These passengers have also been known to be Seat Hogs from time to time.

The "Like" Girls:  I ran into these delightful sweeties this morning, actually.  They are friends.  Some might even say BFF.  They are so excited to be together that they don't know or care that the entire bus is listening to their conversation about who they were with last night, how many beers they had, or how boring their job is.  They punctuate every third word with "like."  As in, "Oh my god, like, I seriously was, like, so drunk.  Like, for real."  On the off chance that these BFF aren't together, one of them is inevitably talking to the other on the phone (see also Loud Cellphone Talker).

The Bouncer: this is the (usually burly) individual who has staked out his real estate at the door of the train.  He has designated himself the guardian of the door, guarding it with his imaginary velvet rope.  If he's not looking around disinterestedly pretending he doesn't see the hoards of people trying to get into the train, he's probably reading his Wall Street Journal or playing with his iPad.  He will not move.  You could shout "FIRE!" and he will remain rooted to the spot right at the door like a sequoia, because he is better than you.  He's already gained entry into the elite club known as the center car -- you know, the one with working air conditioning.  A subset of this group is the aisle bouncer.  On the off chance that you've gained entry, this delightful fellow is blocking the aisle so you can't get to the one open seat next to the Snoozer.

The Faregate Moron: you know this one.  This is the person who can't read arrows.  Or goes to the gate with the red circle.  They gum up the works for those of us who want nothing more to escape the bowels of the station.  A subset is the person who doesn't realize until they've tried 14 times that they lack sufficient funds to exit.  She is also the same person who pays her bus fare in all nickels. 

The Pole Dancer (also Pole Hugger/Leaner/Clencher): the pole belongs to this person. I mean they own it like a stripper on a Saturday night.   The best part, you don't have to tip them.  They swing, sway, lean on, hug, and, in some unfortunate circumstances, even clench the pole between their buttcheeks.  It doesn't matter if it's packed like a sardine can in there and you need the pole to keep yourself from careening into the 80-year-old woman with the walker for whom nobody would move (see Seat Hog), the pole belongs to the dancer.  A special subset are children (usually of tourists) who squeakily whiz themselves around the pole as fast as they can, until they land on the floor.  One particular young man of about eight once did the whiz-spin and on his way back up, licked the length of the pole (I know, because I was there).  I didn't see any news stories about a kid whose tongue turned black and fell off, so he probably just died before that happened. 

The Ding Dong:  mouth open, eyes up to the sky.  The Ding Dong is completely clueless.  This is the passenger who gets on the bus during rush hour and doesn't know where they're going, rides the escalator to its conclusion and just stands there oblivious to the increasing number of commuters backing up behind them, and (my personal favorite) stands on the left of the escalator.  Everyone hates the Ding Dong.  A lot.  I bet they have no friends. (See also the Faregate Moron.)

The 100-Yard Dasher: get out of the way. No, I mean it, get out of the way.  It's urgent that I make the train.  My grandmother is dying.  My wife's having a baby. I'm going to pee in my pants.  I think I just saw David Hasselhoff.  I'm going to miss the train . . . and I'm way more important than you, person who is walking at a normal (maybe even brisk) clip.  This passenger sprints, trenchcoat flying with belt trailing, knees high, long strides, to catch the train . . . that hasn't even arrived yet.  Don't be this person.

Big Junk: this is always a man.  And he has big junk.  It's the only explanation for why he must sit, legs splayed in a near-split, airing it out for all the world to see.  If you are sitting next to him, you better squeeze your knees as close together as they can get, because you have no other choice.  His junk is big.

The Ear-Splitter: is that Kanye I hear?  Oh, now I can sing along with Metallica! Katy Perry, is that you serenading all of us passengers?  Wait, no, it's just someone else's headphones . . . five rows away.  It's okay, they're annoying now, but in ten years they're going to have to have an ear transplant.  Just sit back and gloat.

The Line Leader: no matter how long everyone else has been waiting for the bus or train, this person is going to get on first.  Not second, not third, not after the man with the prosthetic leg. First. You can usually spot this person when they arrive on the scene.  They sidle up to the group already waiting.  They crane their neck as if they're looking for someone they might know (or possibly the bus or train that hasn't arrived yet).  Then they move up near the front into the remaining six square inches of free space and manage to elbow their way to the front of the line. They are more important than you (see also the Bouncer, the Pole Dancer, and the 100-Yard Dasher).  Did you notice, I mentioned them last?

Public transit is a slice of life.  You can bet Big Junk sits like that at home.  I'm certain that the Snoozer is the first one to fall asleep on the plane, the park bench, at happy hour.  The Ding Dong's mouth never closes and the mindless wandering is how they do it at the mall, the Smithsonian, the emergency room.  And the Line Leader has been at the front of the line since second grade.  But if you ever see me on the train, you'll easily be able to pick me out.  I'm perfect.  It's hard work, but I've gotten pretty good at it.

Who's your favorite Metro-type?  Who did we miss?

*Special thanks to FixWMATAchrispulaski, schwars1, ScarlettL, chocolategirl1, aka_tk, theitgirl, and _jpscott for their invaluable input on this story.


  1. Missed the Actress/Beauty Queen. For her the Metro is a dressing room. Oblivious to the car full of commuters, applies full make up as if she were sitting in private in front of a vanity mirror.

  2. I mentioned my previous posts about both the Beauty Queen and the Surfer. These guys are the newest additions to the list. Another one I missed is the stroller lady...usually one of those SUV strollers blocking the aisle at the height of rush hour . . . at Gallery Place.

  3. The nail clipper. Sits contentedly clipping away--click, click! In the meantime, nail shards are flying everywhere.

  4. In the AM, I'm a reader. If you spotted someone on the Red Line anytime this week around 6:30 reading THE CAINE MUTINY, that was most likely me.

    But in the afternoon? After a stop or two, I just close my eyes. Head against the glass, waking up just enough every other station to know where I am. Commuter's instinct? I've got it. Only missed my stop once.