Let me set the stage here for a minute. You’re waiting, like many of us spend a surprising percentage of our life doing. Waiting for the bus, the water to boil, the text message reply. Even in this age of instant gratification, everyone understands that a certain amount of waiting is just part of life. It isn’t a coincidence that sayings like “It was worth the wait” have held up for so long. Waiting. It happens.
But I’m here to talk about the other, darker, side of the waiting story. The kind of waiting that happens when common sense becomes a foreign concept and people forget how to MOVE.
This is a feeling I’ve been sitting on for a while (pun totally intended) and its time to take to the airwaves, or, ya know.
I am the first to admit that I walk faster than most. So, it is certainly unfair of me to expect everyone to move at the pace I’ve grown accustomed to. That being said, I don’t think I’m wrong when I assume that everyone has a personal line. The one that indicates when you’re maybe walking a little slower than I’d like and when you’ve entered into DO YOU NOT HAVE ANYWHERE TO GO?? territory.
If it’s 8:15 am on a Tuesday and I am in a crowd of people leaving a train station, I’m betting most everyone around me has somewhere to be–work, class, the gym, the doctor’s office, hell, even if you’re just looking for the nearest bathroom, you’re on your way somewhere. Don’t tell me that you’re just out for your morning train station stroll, I ain’t buying it.
And while I could go on endlessly about people walking too slow (don’t even get me started on groups of four that apparently need to walk side-by-side) I recognize that this is a tale as old as time, and only part of the bone I’ve got to pick.
I actually want to discuss leaving. A metro/subway/T/tube/L/whatever train, specifically. I understand that many people are tourists or just going somewhere new when they venture onto a city’s metro system. Maybe they glanced at a map, or looked up directions on their phone, but they’re still in an unfamiliar place. I’ve been a tourist before and I understand that all the planning in the world cannot prepare you for being in a city’s transportation system for the first time. It’s a science. The kind of thing that gets mastered over time by people that use it every day, getting to know the ins and outs, the quirks, the frustrations, and how to deal with unexpected and completely inconvenient track work obstacles.
All this aside, leaving a train does not require the type of honed knowledge I just described. It requires 2, maybe 4, steps and a heaping side of common sense. This is the moment where I become baffled, flummoxed, and inevitably annoyed.
Time and again I’ve noticed that how to approach leaving a train seems to utterly stump a surprising majority of people. I’ve discovered that in these situations, suddenly, not knowing exactly where you are going basically elicits a form of perplexed paralysis. Although in most (I’d dare to guess almost all) modern public transportation systems, you will be met with large, clearly placed signage indicating where you should go if you want to exit here or there, transfer to this line or that. I understand that signs take time to read and you need to get your bearings, but I can tell you this much: none of the signs say “Don’t worry, just stand right in the doorway of the train until you figure it all out, no rush.”
My thoughts on this are simple:
- The signs aren’t going anywhere, so if you take five steps out of the train before you start reading them, you’ll probably be fine. Also, there probably aren’t that many different directions you can go in (hint: usually it’s left or right) so maybe just pick one so you can get out of the way, and then figure out if you need to turn around. It will take very little time and you won’t get lost, I promise.
- There are likely other people behind you who also need to get off the train. Many of them probably know exactly where they are going and may even be in a bit of a hurry. Others who might not would also like an opportunity to read all the signs and figure out what they’re doing. This will not be possible if they cannot leave the train.
- There are also likely people waiting to get on the train. They are patiently standing on the platform waiting for everyone to get off the train before they try to get on, but there is a small window of time before the doors are going to close. This is not a situation conducive to figuring out your next move while standing in the doorway like an earthquake is about to hit.