A Commuter's Survival Guide

commuter travel guide

By Shmorey Shmallen

We've officially reached the dreaded dog days of winter. Holiday season is long gone, football season has ended, and the spring weather that bleeds into Summer Friday's doesn't even seem close to approaching. And as an added kick in the dick, if you live above the Mason-Dixon line, it literally hurts to be outside on your walk to work. I saw four different people walking down the street in ski goggles on Friday, where the closest ski mountain is 2.5 hours away. 

It's during these times that nothing can be more soul crushing than a morning and evening commute. If you take mass transit, then your chances of a disabled train increase by about a billion percent. If you have to drive to the office, it means hazardous roads thanks to winter weather and how people seem to forget to drive during winter weather. It means waking up at a time when it's pitch black out and it's so cold out your nostrils are sticking to the bridge of your nose when you walk outside. Fortunately, I'm here to keep you from jumping into an oncoming train or driving into a telephone pole to speed up your demise. Because despite the fact that commuting can crush the inner workings of your soul, there are a few tricks to avoid suicide and keep you sane.

FIND GOOD PODCASTS, MUSIC, AND RADIO STATIONS

This is the most important tip I can give you, and if mastered perfectly it can make that hour (or more) train/car ride feel a lot shorter than it actually is. On the way into work I listen to the sports talk radio, and I'm fortunate enough to live in a market with a damn good morning show (Boomer & Carton, for those wondering) that allows me to avoid listening to the idiots who think a train that leaves at 6:14 AM is a reasonable place to have a screaming match on the phone with their spouse. You get a recap of the previous night's sports, get some opinions on the big stories in the sports world, and maybe a few good guests.

On the way home I'm all about music and podcasts. Find some podcasts that suit your interests and have hosts that aren't complete douchebags, and stay on the prowl for new music. Trust me, you don't want to start associating your favorite songs with a brutal travel schedule. You need to keep fresh music in your pipeline. It'll help you block out the sound of day tripper tourists who are crowding your train, or keep you sane when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. Oh and don't forget your headphones otherwise you might as well set yourself on fire. 

PS. Books also work here. I'm not one for making my eyes more tired than they have to be after staring at a computer screen for 8 hours but you'll never hear me hate on someone that's passing the time by making themselves less stupid.

LEARN TO FALL ASLEEP SITTING UP

This applies only to those that take mass transit into work (unless you car pool), but it's a lifesaver. I do my best to nap on the train ride down on Thursdays and Fridays, being that it's the end of the week and my brain is already approaching a level of usage where it's starting to feel like my skull is filled with tuna fish. But it's not like you can just sprawl out on a bench seat and lay down like you own the god damn train. There are still rules to society in play here. So sleeping while sitting up is really your only option. I put my headphones in and slump down in my seat enough where I'm not going to feel like Christopher Reeve and can't move my neck when I wake up. When you're knocked out for an hour and wake up pulling into your final destination, you feel much more refreshed and you're less likely to stab the doorman at your office.

There's one girl on my train who throws on noise cancelling headphones, puts a neck roll airplane pillow behind her head, and pulls her New York Giants beanie over her eyes to block out the sun. She's knocked out from the moment she sits down to the moment our train arrives. She has the mass transit sleep game on lockdown. That's what we should all aspire for in the morning commute. Sleeping on the way home is tricky though. You run the risk of oversleeping and ending up getting woken up by a conductor about 5 stops after you were supposed to get off. It's also much louder on the ride home which can make things infinitely more difficult. My general rule is if you sleep enough on the ride in, you shouldn't have to worry about the ride home. 

ALCOHOL

Again, this is probably leaning towards the train crowd more than it is those that drive (although I can get behind a road soda or two on the drive home from the office), but alcohol is a necessity on certain days when you're headed home. Have a shitty day only compounded by the fact that you have an hour long train ride followed by a fifteen minute drive home once you get to your station? Nothing a few tall beers or a bottle of wine can't fix. In life, everything is better when you're drinking. And that same rule applies to taking a train or bus home from your workplace.

I'm fortunate enough where there is a beer stand at literally every track that I could potentially have to take my train from, as well as a few liquor stores in the station as well. I'd imagine most major cities have something similar, and it comes in handy when you need it most. I've seen people drinking flasks, bringing legitimate wine glasses so they can down a bottle of red, and every type of beer you can imagine from Busch Lites to different forms of craft. Evening commute train drinking is almost like going to a support group for people stuck in the cubes. Everyone has their own vice, and it's mutually agreed upon that it's a judgement free zone where no one will hassle you about how quickly you just inhaled that 24 ouce Bud Light.

Pop in your headphones, throw on some music, and develop a slight buzz as you talk yourself off the ledge of murdering that broad from accounting who spilled coffee on you this morning. Alcohol actually is proven to taste better on commutes. It's science. 

HAVE A JOB YOU DON'T HATE

Alright, I get it. This is super corny and probably a paradox. I'm not trying to get all deep and philosophical or anything, but it's true. If you don't hate what you're commuting for then you can justify why you sit in your car or on a train or on a bus for multiple hours a day. I'm not saying you have to be one of those people that plan the Christmas party or organize the company happy hours, but as long as you don't hate what you do and the company you work for then you can live with the commute. Just make sure you have your headphones, a fully charged iPhone or iPad, and a few beers for the ride home and you should be able to avoid killing yourself until we reach nicer weather. And then the only thing you'll have to complain about is how fucking hot it is and how the guy next to you doesn't believe in antiperspirant. Better days ahead, indeed.