Hey, Commuters! Is This You?

An alert “06880” reader/Westport resident/suffering commuter writes:

This is a special place to live. Westport offers a top-notch school system; quality restaurants; Compo Beach with its wide shoreline, expansive sports courts, skate park and barbecue pits; Longshore with a waterfront restaurant, golf course, swimming pools, racquet courts and sailing school; downtown’s dozens of shops and restaurants; Levitt Pavilion; Wakeman Town Farm … I could keep going, but you get the idea.

All of those reasons, and more, are why people move to Westport.

Why wouldn’t they move here?

If they work in New York: the commute.

For the most part, train time can be very productive and relaxing. Commuters unwind after a long day. They can nap, watch Netflix, read a good book, pretend it’s Happy Hour and have a drink or 3 with friends, or try to be productive and crank out some work.

However, there is a need for train etiquette. Years spent on Metro-North with 1,000 of my closest friends has exposed me to many atrocities. Among them:

The Eater. There’s no rule against eating, and late night trains are filled with commuters and theatre/concert/sports goers with food. But there is an unwritten rule against bringing food onto commuter (before 10 a.m., and 4-7 p.m.) trains. A few folks break the morning rule, usually with something benign (bananas, muffins, yogurt). On the evening commute, everyone is starving. There’s nothing worse than food on a peak train, especially when sushi with wasabi and soy sauce permeates the entire car.

Not quite Metro-North.

The Seat Hog. You know who you are. You put your bag down, don’t make eye contact with anyone getting on, and when someone finally asks you to get up to sit down you grumble and take your time, hoping the person goes elsewhere or stands. I take pleasure in going for that seat, knowing how much it irritates you.

The Sniffler. No one wants to hear you sniffle the entire trip. There’s this wonderful invention: tissues. They’re not expensive. Throw a few in your pocket if you’re not feeling well. Better yet: Stay home.

The DJ. No one wants to hear your music. Turn it down. You’ll help the rest of us — and you won’t go deaf yourself.

Dude, your music sucks.

The Phone Chimer. Turn the sound off. Sure, getting a text is exciting. But you don’t need to inform your fellow passengers how popular you are. There’s a vibrate option. Use it.

The Relaxer. Don’t put your feet on the seat. No one wants to sit there. And for the love of God, don’t take your shoes off.

The Newspaper Reader. No need to loudly crinkle and fold every page. Who reads an actual newspaper these days anyway? There’s an Apple Store right in Grand Central. Check out the wonderful electronics.

The Nail Clipper. No, you are not in your bathroom. Enough said.


The “My Job is More Important Than Yours” Person. The worst part of the commute may be the slow walk along the platform into Grand Central. Cutting in front of people will only save you a few seconds. Sit in the first car — or just get in line with the rest of us.

Does that cover it? Or has our commuter commentator missed anyone? If so, click “Comments” below.

35 responses to “Hey, Commuters! Is This You?

  1. Bruce Schneider

    There are at least two more:
    The Deal Maker: Most people know you are the only one that can close this deal, so let’s make sure that everyone in the car can hear your strategy as you direct “your people” to respond to a counter-offer. Be sure to look over your shoulder maybe the counterparty is behind you.

    New Haven Tourists: Usually 3-5 people found in the facing 5 seaters near the vestibules in evening trains. Most frequently on Wednesdays — matinee day. There is no concept of using “inside voice”, that no wants to hear your conversation or that everyone wants to relax. Favorite questions are: 1) Which way will train go? 2) Are we moving?

  2. The Loud talkers.

  3. Nicely said. The nail clipper is disgusting. But, I really like my newspaper. And all the crinkling and folding is necessary so the paper isn’t stretched out over the person sitting next to you. Maybe you should drive.

  4. Richard Fogel

    it helps get my day started on the right track

  5. The make up artist…
    Put your “face on” in private. Mascara, etc unpleasant to witness.

  6. Julie Shapiro

    This is fabulous – should be put on a poster and hung in every car!!!!!

  7. Roxanne Gates

    Crying babies.

  8. Bart Shuldman

    I always wondered would train commuters pay more for a fast and comfortable train to NYC. The service would be titled Fairfield Express and would include:

    1) 3 trains every morning and night
    2) Service starts at the Fairfield Train Station to GCS
    3) service would not stop at 125th street
    4) train stops at Fairfield Metro, Fairfield, Westport, Norwalk, Darien, Rowayton, STAMFORD
    5) first train leaves Fairfield at 6, then 7 then 8
    6) train from NYC leaves 6, 7 and 8
    7) train seats are same as Amtrak-comfortable with a bar car and food snacks and WiFi.
    8) Goal would be 1 hr from first stop to last
    9) reserve seating by monthly passes only.
    10) one or two cars are no reserve and first come first serve, but assigned seats so no overcrowding.

    Price-What it it was double the mo they pass? Would commuters pay for the service and convenience?

    Just wondering.

    • William Strittmatter

      Bart – the old NY Times article I linked below suggested commuters on the private Southport car paid 92 times what regular commuters paid. Seems like a rather stiff premium. Still, with what I hear some country clubs go for, perhaps there would be enough demand.

  9. How about the classic unattentive parent who lets their kid play some stupid noisey game on their phone why the parent has their own headset on not to be disturbed…..

  10. Priscilla Hawk

    You said people don’t read newspapers these days – I beg to differ. I get the Westport News and know you read it because you have a weekly article in it, which we enjoy. The new Westport News is great and very helpful in knowing what is going on in our area.

  11. Ellen Greenberg

    Another olfactory offence: excessive aftershave or perfume

  12. I would add to this list: “manspreading”. As a daily commuter, I am often in the middle seat between two men who sit with their legs spread wide while I’m twisted like a pretzel, shoulders hunched, legs crossed, to take up as little space as possible. I don’t think men are conscious of doing this and when I’ve asked them to please close their legs so they are not encroaching on my space they have always been fine with it.

  13. I’m not sure , if this is true or not , but I remember hearing there was a time when there was a “special” Southport car attached to the regular train or a “special,” short Southport train that carried the “very wealthy ” into NY in the luxury the very rich thought they deserved.
    Some how the very rich decided they didn’t want it or the railroad decided they didn’t need it.
    Now we’re one big happy family traveling together, learning to respect each other

    • William Strittmatter

      Apparently there were a number of “private cars” at one time.


      By the way, your comment seems a bit “judgmental”.

      Just curious. If somehow paying more for better service was a bad thing, would you also advocate Westport merging with Norwalk (or, better yet, Fairfield and Bridgeport)? I mean, just because Westporters are “affluent” (if not “very wealthy” which, comparatively it is) and can “afford” to live in Westport, does that mean Westporters “deserve it”? Maybe we should just be one big happy family sharing neighborhoods, schools, etc. and learning to respect each other instead.

      • Jennie G Pickering

        Knight Rider wrote this article ? Wasn’t Kit reliable enough transportation for him?

  14. the snorer

  15. The New Haven/Penn Central provided several club cars for private membership-only groups who leased them. They featured more spacious seating and had a private attendant serving food and drinks. The cars were discontinued when the state took over in the early 70’s and bought new equipment that was incompatible with the existing club cars and declined to configure new equipment for new club cars, though the Southport Club members offered to pay “any price” for a new car.


  16. anyone who thinks there is an “unwritten rule” that disfavors reading a newspaper on any Metro North train (morning or evening) is creating such things to serve their own pet peeves. that observation may apply to some of the other “unwritten rules” cited in this post as well.

  17. I remember on the 7:05 train returning, in the early eighties, there was a regular who was a managing partner of a NY law firm. He would sit on the aisle side of a three up and work through his briefcase, quite oblivious to the junior investment banker whose assignment was to look over his shoulder.

    What is wrong with a newspaper? We all learned this: https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/how-to-fold-a-broadsheet-newspaper?

  18. Actually, I still prefer reading the print edition of The New York Times every day and I hardly consider myself a Luddite (and prefer reading books over ebooks).

    One way trains have vastly improved: unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I’m almost certain there were a number of smoking cars back in the day. So, if it was a crowded commuter train coming from NY, you had to try to get there a bit early to make sure you had a seat in a no-smoking car if that was important to you. And I assume the Westport commuters in the morning positioned themselves on the platform by where they knew the smoking and no-smoking cars would arrive.

    • The trains definitely had smoking cars. The last new New Haven coaches, built in 1948, were configured with a small smoking section up front, separated by plexiglass from the rest of the train, and had vertical facing seats for smokers–some older cars were reconfigured this way as well until money ran out. On the Boston trains they were used this way but on commuter trains, entire cars were designated smoking/non-smoking regardless of the smoking section. When Amtrak took over some of these cars, they were used as smoking cars as they were the only coaches Amtrak had without carpeted floors.
      I never remembered having to sit in a smoking car because of overcrowding. If anything, the smokers were the ones out of luck.

    • Now we see smokers dash out to the platform at a stop, light up, take a few puffs, and get back aboard before the train pulls off to the next station.

  19. Do you remember the Bridge players? They tipped the conductor to “save” the facing seats at the end of the car. He placed a cardboard poster over the seats until they came. They were an animated, noisy group you could hear throughout the car. Sometimes, they got off at Westport carrying the poster, so they could finish their hand. Milton Fisher was one of them.

    • Before bridge, they had poker–rumor had it they had veto stop it when the money gambled got out of hand. I don’t think you had to tip the conductor–the RR rented the card set. There were many regular groups. I remember one group, apparently made up of people from the same company, where the junior employee had to go get the drinks after everybody settled in.

      One legendary train was the Nathan Hale, the 6:05 to Springfield. It rated 2 bar cars in addition to someone selling liquor at the platform entrance. And many people took the 6:05 because they stopped in a bar before coming to GCT.

    • I remember the bridge players, and made the horrible mistake of sitting in one of their “designated seats” as a newcomer to the Westport commuter scene. Oh, the glares! And sometimes they would still be haggling about their bids while the train emptied out at Grand Central in the morning. They would be the last ones off the train.

  20. anonymous poster alert

    also, “wildly off topic poster” alert

  21. Deb Rosenfield

    As we former commuters knew, the way to read a newspaper on the train is by using the “subway fold.” http://nytimesinschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/NYT_Subway_Fold.pdf

  22. Michael Shafrir

    If you are having 3 drinks on a 67 minute train from Grand Central to Westport and then getting in your car at the station and driving home, you are putting yourself and the community in danger. That’s far worse than crinkling your newspaper.

  23. Oh gosh–have to admit, I still miss the trains of the northeast. I grew up riding trains. First in Westport into NYC, and then we moved to Philly which ran from Paoli, PA into Philly and beyond into NYC from the Main Line. We kids rode the trains every day in Philly burbs. It was a way of life. Nostalgia.

  24. Commuters tossing newspapers on the floor, ignoring the fact there are large bins at the end of the track at Grand Central for depositing old newspapers for recycling.

  25. I hated the commute enough to quit and find something in Norwalk – 20 minutes door to door!

    I disagree with a few of those peeves (too hungry to smell someone else’s food? get your own), but Mr. Seat Hog is the worst, but they could be a hidden benefit! I was a Seat Hog Hunter, if you are persistent enough all the seat hog has done is save you a good seat! There was one seat hog who tried to protect his turf by taking the aisle of a two seater, then proceeding to take off his jacket AND his dress shirt and hanging them on the coat hanger, effectively taking up the window seat. Well wasn’t he surprised when I asked to sit in that window seat! He scooted over and I got my aisle seat, albeit next to a guy in a white workout t-shirt. After the 3rd time I did this to him he had to give up on this tactic and I never saw him undressing again.

    The DJ isn’t limited to music, now it’s games too. Here’s a rule for all society – if you left home without your headphones you don’t get to hear audio from your phone unless you can hold it up to your ear. Mute it now.

  26. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    As a busboy at Mario’s ’68-’69 I witnessed more than a few of my friends’ fathers getting poured off the NHRR bar car coming to rest on the other side of Railroad Place until the wives arrived.

  27. Really? “Unwritten” rules? No newspapers? No food during peak hours am or pm? Who died and made you king of everyone, snowflake? Westport commuting for years: AM get NYT, coffee, & breakfast bagel on RR Place; PM get Zaro’s dog or knish or pizza slice & cart beer on track 17 express

  28. Howard Silver

    The hyper typist making loud tapping noises as they type on their laptop computer. Sitting near one now.