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It sliced through all of us like the blade of a knife that had just been sharpened a mere moment before…that word. Sure we’ve heard it; perhaps we’ve even been guilty of saying it, but it would appear certain that the guy in this story had it stored up in his arsenal (among some serious issues and self-control problems, which you’ll come to see). I say this because in thinking back to the bizarre scenario, I think it’s only safe to say he was insane. With a little bit of an asshole thrown in there.

Monday morning | 7:10 a.m. | Another Week Arrives

The day was typical: a crowded train with commuters piling in by the dozens, all holding false smiles, filled coffee cups and arguably empty souls (some of us). But one thing in common amongst us all — other than the incessant thought of, boy, does this suck — is that we were each gearing up for another week of whatever would come. Yet, no matter what we were planning for, I doubt any of us expected that together we would all endure one of the strangest scenarios of our lives, leaving us with a truewhat the fuck just happened kind of feeling.

You see, of all the NJ Transit workers I’ve encountered, there’s one woman who prides herself on her by-the-book techniques. Of course, some might appreciate it, but my guess is that the majority lies in those who believe her methods to be somewhat irritating. Bluntly stated, she’s a little bit of a Transit Freak. Perhaps that’s hyperbole, but you understand. Having said that, she still deserves respect, something I thought everyone thought as well. But again, it was only 7:10 a.m. and I had a lot to learn.

Monday morning | 7:15 a.m. | Things Get Interesting

I’m not sure how many of you have commuted on public transportation in the past 20 years (if so, I feel your pain) but the general rule is you purchase a ticket and hand it to the operator as proof of your purchase. Why anyone would question this process, I have no damn clue; it’s pretty much the exact same method for every ticket-related transaction in the world. But I guess some people don’t understand…

Ticket please, sir,” she said kindly.
“I’m buying a weekly pass at Newark Broad St. I’ll give you the ticket then.”

Mind you, friends, Newark Broad Street was two stops away at this time. So, naturally, you can understand the look of confusion upon the Transit Freak’s face… as well as ours.

“Sir, you’ll need to purchase a ticket now. You can’t get on and buy a ticket at a later stop. It’s not the same price.”

 Read the full piece on The Huffington Post.

What I have for you below is not one scenario, one experience… but a number of occurrences and observations which have all led me to the sneaking suspicion that the majority of the shirt-and-tie commuters I encounter on the tracks of NJ Transit are true drunkards… lushes… whatever you’d like to call them. Yes, they’re the ones you see desperately flocking towards the stores within the hellish hallways of Penn Station trying oh, so hard to grab that cool, refreshing can of Bud Light (freedom) just mere minutes before their train departs. And yes, it appears they have good taste as well… (pause for sarcasm).

So, should you ever decide to ride the NJ Transit line — or be forced to by the soul-crushing actuality that is the “real world” — during afternoon commuting hours, chances are you’ll see your fair share of transiting tipplers along your path, each with distinct differences proving that while they all have that sad commonality of truly “needing” that beer just as they pull away from the land that made them crazy in the first place — because God forbid they wait until they get home — there are certain differences within the community… subsets, if you will.

Allow me to explain with the below examples.

Read the full piece on The Huffington Post

I should have known how this commute was going to unfold, at least in terms of the tone. Thinking back, it couldn’t have gone any other way. I was doomed from the moment I left my apartment; some might even say from the moment I agreed to get a day job and become a commuter…

I began my Monday as any normal day — tired. Too tired, in fact, with the hopes of one day discovering how to work from the ease of my own home and not have to trek over the Hudson every day. Sadly, I’ve yet to figure that out. So, I swallowed my pride, continued slaving away and headed to my lovely NJ Transit platform.

On this particular morning, I found myself visited by three ominous occurrences — shitty occurrences, some might say — with each acting as a symbol of what’s to come. I won’t lie, the visits made me feel as if I was in some sort of sickened, twisted Dickens novel. Yet these signs seemed even more bizarre than old Jacob Marley coming to visit. I would have preferred him …I received no goose.

VISITOR NUMBER 1:
I paced down the steps of my platform — early as usual — with false optimism on my side until I nearly tripped over an object laid upon the floor just round the corner from the steps. With coffee and balance intact (in order of importance) I looked back to notice a crow on the platform floor…

…a dead crow on the platform floor…

Now, I’m not a superstitious man. Beyond my initial reaction of “Christ, I almost spilled my coffee!” and “Shit, there’s a dead crow! How terrible,” there was not much more. I swear, I have a good heart, but I quickly tossed out the thought of any superstition…just a rare sighting. However, my station holds two bends I need to pass in order to get to my train. And after corner two was bypassed, I wouldn’t’ say I started believing, but I knew something was in the air.

Read the full piece at The Huffington Post

My train had just left Penn and was heading back to reality, back to where things made sense to me, where I felt a form of comfort. Yes, I’m talking about New Jersey. Deal with it. I assure you there are far worse places to be…

Having said that, I will admit that we do have some crazies knocking around. For instance, on this particular day, I was enjoying the company of comedian Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny podcast (if you haven’t listened, do so) when I heard a commotion initiated by one of those stated crazies. Within seconds something I’d normally see on YouTube began developing in front of my very eyes.

If you’ve ever taken a ride from New York Penn to Jersey (from madness to sanity) then you’ll remember a few things:

1. NJ Transit trains are too crowded. Just when you thought you couldn’t get closer to that overworked, overweight, over-sickly accountant — you could.
2. The trains are insanely comfortable to anyone who has never experienced what “comfort” is.
3. The train ventures under the Hudson to get through to Jersey, which is done so by tunnel. A fine adventure for most.

So, there I was, enjoying the company of Pardo and co-host Matt Belknap when I heard the increasing sound of roars and disagreements behind me. Apparently, because of the immense volume of people in our car, the doors separating each one were unable to close. Fine by me, and everyone aboard, except the one who believed a deadly disease was coming our way as a result of the “diseased-ridden death air being released into our lungs inside the tunnel,” — as he put it.

Read the full piece at The Huffington Post

Simply put, the daily trek from New Jersey to New York City blows… no matter what part of the Garden State you call home. As a weekday commuter you must be willing to give up your comfort, your sanity, and perhaps portions of your soul to travel across the Hudson into the city that never sleeps…or bathes…or shuts the hell up. But naturally, it’s worth it because we all love our “well-paying, self-fulfilling” jobs. Right?

Having said that, the venture over the river does offer certain perks, especially for a writer looking for some inspiration and an audience. You see, having recently received the gracious blessing of a day job, I now travel to New York City daily from my home in Montclair, and along my path I’ve found material that could fill a Tolstoy-sized novel, one littered with characters whom some might call … let’s say “interesting,” to spare some feelings.

So, because these people, these occurrences, are too good to keep to myself, it is my pleasure (and duty as a storyteller) to share them with you all here…

THE COMMUTER LIFE
The Call That Saved My Day”
 

The day was rather dismal. I was in a new job I found uncomfortable, on a commute I found uncomfortable, sitting too close to people I for some reason found uncomfortable to be around; however, the unfortunate truth was that I needed the money. Funny enough, even that seemed to be missing amid the “impressive salary and benefits package” offered by my company. Regardless, it was the end of the day so I was looking upward and forward to a night of writing, playing guitar, and dinner with my lady.

Read the full piece at The Huffington Post

 

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