The Morning Commute: Worthy of a Greek Tragedy


Waiting for the subway is only one of the many ways to ruin a morning.(Ai Elo)

I have to get up early, sacrificing sleep for the commute itself, and I also have to endure the various tortures that a commute entails. As a commuter, because of all these various stresses, I suffer a handicap versus my resident counterparts who can just crawl out of bed stress free and into their classes.

The worst part of the commute is the surrender. You must surrender yourself to the will of the schedule. The NJ transit bus or train schedules are not sympathetic to your schedule—they have their own agenda. On Wednesdays and Mondays I arrive at school two hours before class and on Tuesdays and Fridays 45 minutes early, due to the way the train schedule is structured. All that extra time could be better spent sleeping. I don’t need to cite science to tell you sleep is important. If you don’t get a decent night’s sleep, you will feel the lethargy in your bones as though you had just been flogged for days and nights.

The NJ Transit train ride is a horror beyond all imagination. Inside the train is a locomotive buffet of humanity’s greatest defects. Before taking a seat, a potpourri of human stench reaches your nostrils which cannot help but flare in protest. People bathe in perfume, others have renounced hygiene and some reek of their cuisine. In the morning, trains tend to be crowded, so I’m forced to share seats with others. Some of these people sit spread eagle, occupying far too much legroom. Being encumbered with the weights of manhood, this presents a challenge. In short, this is all a terribly unpleasant experience.

I’ve exchanged flirtatious glances with fellow passengers before, but being ogled by people I’ve no interest in is unnerving. Even if you make clear your disinterest, they persist in their staring. These oglers range from crusty spinsters to old Italian trolls in booty shorts with spinach bits in their teeth. If my standards were so low as to accommodate their lechery, I should end up the Casanova of the rails. To top it off, a jolly train conductor is a rarity; most huff and puff their way up the aisles and snatch the ticket out of your hand as if you were a thief.

Then there is the quiet car, which is anything but quiet. For the conductors enforce the “quiet” with noise. It’s counterintuitive, I know, but in spite of this, they blare announcements over the loudspeakers, in frequent intervals I might add, so as to remind us that we are in fact aboard the quiet car. Heaven forbid if anyone is caught on a cellphone or making any noise, for the conductors make such a cacophony in their efforts to silence the culprit that yet again the objective of the quiet car is undermined.

The subways, the inbred cousin of the train, are far worse, for the standards of public decorum have long been abandoned in these underground tunnels. Musicians have the impudence to board the subway train and force sounds into our ears as they bang on pots and pans. Then they have the gall to demand compensation for their racket. Many of them are not even musicians; they are people who just happen to own instruments. Because of the confined space in subways, it is not uncommon to get within a close proximity of these people.

At times eye contact is established and this makes it very awkward as they extend their hand and you must make up an excuse as to why you have no money. There are also beggars pleading for change and to see people in such an impoverished state damages my outlook for the day. Some beggars preface their begging with a little speech. I once heard a man shout “I fear nothing, God is my shield.” My hands trembled as I braced myself thinking he was about to explode but it turned out he was just asking for money.

There are parallels to be found between the myth of Prometheus and my commute. Prometheus in Greek mythology was punished for giving man the gift of fire and his punishment entailed having his entrails pecked out by a large bird and to have this torture repeated with the coming of the next day. I, like Prometheus, endure a torture and like him, I too, suffer the misfortune of having to wake up and repeat it.