Issue 3 Contents


Commuter's Notebook

There are certain things a commuter needs to feel prepared for the troubles bound to present themselves each day. I travel with one of those rectangular canvas bags with a flap that folds over you see carried by all the other workers who can't afford one of those fancy leather jobs made by Coach. It really is more practical anyway considering all the stuff I need.

The most essential item is my pillow. Pilfered from a flight that was over an hour late, I figured the airline owed me. I can';t emphasize enough the importance of the pillow. It fits easily into the side pocket of my canvas bag and resolves many o f my comfort issues. The only danger is depending on it too much; this can be disconcerting on an extremely bad day when even a chaise lounge would fail to bring me solace amidst the din of cackling women giggling too loudly over gardening experiences, t wo or three children crying and the Mother's repeated "Hush, Joey!" and "Megan sit down," the ever-ducky whistling train conductor, and two posturing men arguing loudly about the merits of Don Shula. Nevertheless, the pillow helps me escape and for that I am very thankful. I am mocked and teased by my fellow co-workers about the pillow, but I think they would employ its use if they weren't so concerned with other people making fun of them.

We all need water to live. Don't let yourself be in the unenviable position of waking up in a dry train breathing the secretions of hundreds of strangers without any hope of relieving the situation. In an effort to be thrifty, I reuse and refill any plastic bottle that comes into the house and carry it in the same pocket as the pillow. Warning: Be certain the bottle is always closed completely! This may seem obvious, but the distracted, groggy commuter may find himself carrying a soaking wet bag on e day. Ever hang outside with a handful of ice cubes in the middle of winter? You will approximate the experience if you do not heed this advice! Now since I make it a policy never to bring work home with me, I've never had to deal with destroying anyth ing work-related, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen to you. So the more important the contents of the bag, the more careful one must be with the water.

Water also can work as a weapon against those antagonistic passengers. Imagine coming in from the cold and finding yourself dripping in cold water. The wonderful thing is these cretins would never anticipate it despite their own conctant assaults on others, and so should be "rewarded" for such a lack of imagination. This can be accomplished "accidently" quite easily.

A permanent marker can ruin some suit's 80s, yuppie, I'm-better-than-you attitude. I haven't obtained the optimum pen yet, but I recommend the Sanford Sharpie product line for the uninitiated. Can you say permanent?

After a while, the best thing to equip yourself with is a brazen attitude. Just the other day, tired of the people who line up to prevent others from departing the train in an orderly fashion, I spotted a lady wearing a dead dog who just reeked of bad attitude planning to cut me. Moving quickly, I body-checked her as she tried to ignore me. The shock on her face was enough to make me walk on air the rest of the day and as I strolled down the platform, it was one of the few days I've smiled at that u ngodly hour.

I carry mace, but no one's attacked me overtly enough to justify using it. Unfortunately, in the commuting world, most attacks are subtle. Consequently, counter-attacks must be evaluated carefully. You don't want to mace some psycho who knows precis ely where you are twice daily and and has nothing better to do than plan some sort of revenge.

Another good idea is befriending the train conductors. I'm filled with too much hostility to smile or talk to "The Whistler," but there are others who are really a pleasure to know. There's an intelligent, easy-going, quiet conductor who trades books and talks about history. We chat in the evenings, when I'm a little more at ease. He also sits behind me when I'm sleeping, to make sure no one f*cks with me or my stuff. His kindness sometimes hurts, because it is so unfamiliar.

- Lizzy