They say that life is about the journey and not the destination, an age old cliche I’d happily greenlight in any situation…other than taking the Long Island Rail Road. For brevity’s sake, we won’t delve too deep into the suckage that is a 1hr+ door-to-door work commute on the hell bus. As we know, it’s a suffering as understandable as HIV, and I’m deeply sorry if that offends, but if you aren’t able to empathize, trust that it’s really that bad. Even with books, Candy Crush, Spotify, and naps, there’s no band aid that can appease the pain that is the monthly ticket; a $300 fare I pay with such disdain that it pains me. Twitter, the local news, and the stations platform solidarity blatantly tells me that this sentiment is more than shared.
To add insult to injury, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had the audacity to jack up the rates in early 2017. The 4% hike is supposed to be equalized by Related Companies and Vornado Realtys $3B Penn Station renovation plan, a reality that my octogenarian peers probably won’t even see in their life time. Still though, we know that the trains are quite literally the vehicle to success and for that reason, we bite the bullet. At the end of the day, the politics of the whole system should result in a more predictable schedule with mitigated delays, so let the macro decision makers study the trends and craft some solutions. As they blue print our public transit antidote, let me highlight one such trend that they may have not noticed from their corner offices on Park Ave. As delays increase, so too do the conversations amongst the crowd of agonizers. Simply put misery loves company, and riding the train is officially synonymous with outspokenly complaining about it…rail obstructed at fucking Jamaica.
On a golf course, you talk about golf. In a barber shop, you talk about hair. On the train, you talk about every bad decision you’ve made leading up to that point. It’s funny how quickly calamity will cue conversation. A 10 minute delay will have two total and complete strangers confessing the dastardly college antics that probably resulted in their 5 day imprisonment on the train. Inclimate weather in Queens will invite the yentas to indulge each other with talks of their grandchildren and straight A report cards. A signal error spurs negotiations between corporate execs, provoking an exchange of business cards and a follow up call slated for next week. And for the 23 year old blogger with a particular appetite for brunettes, a scarcity of seats may be just enough of a catalyst to prompt him to ask the neighboring cutie, hey, how was your day? As the hysteria grows and patience dwindles, the banter amongst the train-folk thrives proving that we finally have found a cure that trumps an express ride home with a lukewarm Bud Light…just talk about it.
The train-bashing culture has an affinity, bolstering our hypothesis that misery really loves its company. As much as the commute sucks, the way patrons of the MTA handle it says a lot about the proud people that I share my mornings with. Moreover, it’s pretty telling as to who we, as a society, are. You see, the ease at which the crowd speaks when things go wrong is wildly opposite from the usual antisocial quiet car on the typical, uninterrupted Wednesday afternoon. Given the chance to express their woes however, people are quick to oblige. This thought is nothing new amongst the window-gazing crowd…science has already beckoned a far more prolific version of our observation. “Does misery love company, or does misery make company equally miserable?” To make the question a bit more relevant and hopefully relatable, why is it so easy to get a girls phone number when the train is crawling slower than Asahd Khaled?
Chris Segrin, a professor of psychology and communications at the University of Arizona at Tucson, THE Ivy League of the Southwest, first started poking around the subject of misery scientifically loving company. To test the hypothesis, he studied what he called the “emotional contagion” amongst married couples or between individuals who were emotionally involved. The observational case study fortunately showed that I’m not going crazy. Moderate fluctuations in mood have little to no effect on your counter part, but extremes in terms of both anger and happiness seemed to show their side effects. Segrin wrapped up his findings in two concise sentences. “Couples were as matched on positive affect as on negative affect. Happy people seek out happy people, and those who are down and out seek the same.”
This is all the evidence I need to convince myself that I’ll meet my wife in line at the DMV…like attracts like and commiserating is in our nature. Even though the subject matter is negative, the daily struggle that is the commute drums up something special from time to time. It shows that when we as people are forced to continue on through even the most bloodsucking of situations, we still seek to do so collectively. Wait time has become an open forum, an awkward silence that actually incubates conversation. It disarms the regular shyness and I’ll go as far to say as it inebriates the mind and loosens the lips as if you’re already 4 shots deep. The train can be lonely, a daily constant as to the lengths we are going to go to achieve our goals. As the unexpected occurs and the taxing day we just conquered shows it’s effect, nothing eases our tired bodies and restless minds more than finding company to unwind with. In fact, it may lead to something that lasts even longer than the ride from Zone 7.
I hate it!
But so does she…
so there’s no harm in asking then,
“Hey. Where would you rather be?”