How Vast Is Your Metro-North Commuting Vocabulary?

“Commuting is a death by a thousand tiny pin pricks, as opposed to the broadsword,” says Michael Malone, writer, blogger at, occasional Westchester Magazine contributor, and author of The New York Commuter’s Glossary. “For the most part, the regular riders are well behaved, and get the drill. Some, known as commutants, don’t get it, and some, dubbed assengers, don’t ride enough to pick up on the code of behavior.”

If you’re not a daily Metro-North rider and don’t yet know all of said unspoken rules, at least you can learn the lingo. In The New York Commuter’s Glossary, Malone has given a name to all of the little indignities that face a daily train commuter.

So, how savvy are you? Let’s see if you can guess the definition of some of these words.

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accidental tourist

Okay, did you put down your best guesses? Here are Malone’s definitions:

The awkward intertwining of two passengers’ legs as they share facing seats on Metro-North trains.

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The frightening feeling of waking up on the train and bolting for the door, certain that the present stop is your own.

accidental tourist
Falling asleep on the commute and waking up several stops past your own in a strange land.

Sound like any of you?

Since Malone is obviously a frequent commuter, I asked him for his favorite train story. Instead, he told me about one of his favorite regular riders, “simply for the juxtaposition of the dull, white bread setting of the evening train, and a rider who clearly did not fit the profile of the typical rider,” he explains.

“‘Rocky’ is a transvestite, and, according to conductors, a fairly regular rider on Metro-North,” he says. “He’s about seven feet tall in his giant heels, African-American—the large majority of Metro-North riders are very, very white—and dresses to put a Vegas strumpet to shame with wigs, fishnets, crop tops, and faux furs. I’ve seen Rocky twice on the train—Rocky I and Rocky II?—though not in some time. What’s as entertaining as watching Rocky stroll into your car—and he seems to prefer walking up and down the aisles, as if on a runway, as opposed to quickly finding a seat and almost blending in—is watching the faces of the everyday riders. “

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“One thing I always wonder about Rocky is—as he’s on the northbound train—where the heck is he going?” he adds. “He doesn’t get off in White Plains. Chappaqua? Bedford? It boggles the mind.”

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