Monday, November 05, 2007


About a month ago, I stumbled across an excellent blog called "Trainjotting." It's described as, "a site that covers the picayune details about commuting to Manhattan, and back again."
In this forum, passengers are free to vent about such things as; Messy trains, late trains, crowded trains, fellow passengers, and, if you can believe it... rude conductors.

Mike, the author of Trainjotting, recently asked me to answer five questions for one of his posts. I've reprinted the interview here, with his permission:

1. What’s the craziest thing you ever saw after 21 years on the job?

I once caught two couples having a mini-orgy on one of the late night trains. Passengers having sex on the train is more common than you might think, but this is the only time I caught two couples in action (I was more embarrassed than they were).

The craziest rider award goes to “Rocky,” a 6′4″ cross dresser who regularly rides our rails (all three lines). He usually boards the train as a man, but like a sexually ambiguous Superman, he’ll run into a nearby train lavatory and come out dressed in pink hot pants (with the words “BOY TOY” emblazoned on the back), a halter-top, a feather boa, black platform leather boots and a Tina Turner wig. You should see the look on the other passengers’ faces. It’s priceless.
On a more serious note, the days following 9/11 were definitely the strangest. Read my post about it here:

2. Riders give Metro-North conductors high approval ratings. What grade do you give riders?

My knee-jerk reaction was to give riders poor grades, but that’s because I usually work late night trains when everybody’s drunk and obnoxious. Outside of this demographic, I’d give our passengers a “B.” Most people merely ask us to get them from Point A, to Point B, in a safe, considerate and timely manner. When we don’t meet these expectations, they get a little upset …I can’t fault them for that.

If they’d only clean up after themselves, they’d get a B+.

3. Does the MTA know about your conductor blog? Do they care?

“Derailed” was mentioned in the “Commuters Journal” section of the New York Times last year, and The New Haven Register recently did an article on me.
Both of these articles are posted on the MTA ’s company website, so I guess they’re vaguely aware of me and my blog. I try to be careful and not write anything that would embarrass, or in any way damage the company.

4. If I could implement one rule for Metro-North, it would be…

Communicate…communicate…communicate. I have seen some progress in this area over the past few years, but when the #@%* hits the fan, communication between company and passengers breaks down. I agree that conductors could do a better job communicating as well, but we’re usually left as clueless as the passengers.

5. Which stop has the best riders? The worst?

When my wife was a child, she’d ask her mother, “Which one of us kids do you like best?” Her mother would answer… “I dislike you all equally.”

That’s kind of the way I feel about our stations. Each one has its own unique personality, some good qualities, some not so good. For example, riders from wealthy towns are usually bright and interesting people, but they also tend to be demanding…Some are downright arrogant, (the phrases “I’ll have your job” and “You work for me” come to mind.)
Stations in urban areas are full of hard-working, “salt of the earth” type of people, but it’s here that we find most of our fare evasion problems.

Conductors say that Harlem Line passengers are by far the nicest, most polite people on Metro-North territory. Hudson Line passengers, they say, are a close second. Rumor has it that they say “please” and “thank you” over there. When we New Haven Line conductors hear these stories, we stand with mouths agape in disbelief.


sandi said...

I can't believe anyone would have any complaints about RUDE conductors! How can there be such a thing? I was riding the train the other night, coming home from visiting my daughter in Manhattan, and a young woman sitting across from me got on the train and immediately fell asleep. When the conductor came by to take her ticket, she was soundly sleeping, and I actually felt sorry for him, having to stand there and figure out how best to awaken her. All the passengers around me were watching closely, just to see what he would do. He called her "miss" and kept saying the word "ticket" a few times...but nothing. She was a goner. And just when I thought he was probably going to have to shake her awake, instead he rapped his knuckles on the headrest next to her, and she startled into wakefulness, and then looked around, embarrassed and started laughing. He seemed embarrassed, too. She told me that she'd only had four hours of sleep the night before--and then she fell right back to sleep. I was telling my daughter this story (she's a college student) and she said, "Oh, they always have to do that for me, too. I get on the train, and I can't even stay awake to 125th Street." We live in a sleep-deprived culture, I guess. Good thing that conductors are so understanding!

Jamie said...

As I have observed as a conductor, the passengers who are sleeping are often times with a ticket that needs to be collected by a conductor as compared to a monthly ticket that the majority of passengers have. I would say eighty percent will have a ticket and look very surprised when awakened and asked for the ticket. Seems to be a little game to play with the hopes we will not wake them and they will receive a free ride. Unfortunately it doesn't work but they keep trying!!!!!!!!!

Andrew said...

Ha Ha now me as a New Haven Line rider highly agree with this. I rode the Harlem Line once nad the people are very nice. You know there were one or two wierdos but that is every where. On the New Haven Line there are plenty of horrible people to go around Metro North Territory like thousand times. Just kidding I should not be so critical. Bascially each Line also has its own personality. On the Harlem nice people, the Hudson Line is boring, and the New Haven you get all kinds of characters. Well thats it for this comment.