Basic Train-ing

Richard Lobel offers five key rules of Metro-North etiquette that every commuter should consider

I am a proud resident of Irvington. And while my town’s namesake, Washington Irving, was decidedly against trains passing over his property (true story), I, for one, am an unapologetic Metro-North lover. A seven-minute walk to the train and into Midtown Manhattan in 37 minutes? All that convenience, plus the ability to pretend you are being environmentally sensitive? Color me green!

Yet, despite the general understanding shared by rail riders everywhere, I’d like to provide a primer for those who may not know, and a refresher course for those who do, of the basics of train etiquette so that you don’t get tripped up on your next trip to the city.

1. Get Your Bag off My Seat. 

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I run for the 6:25 pm to Croton-Harmon. I barely make it in, panting as the doors close behind me. Tired, I turn to collapse into an aisle seat, only to discover that a bulbous black bag blocks my way. My mouth may be saying, “Excuse me; may I?” but my mind is thinking, How far can I punt this bulbous black bag?  


2. Please Don’t Practice Self-Grooming. 

That torture-chamber-looking eyebrow-plucking instrument you are using in the seat next to me haunts my dreams. Do you really need to brush your hair so vigorously and so close to my person? That collection of makeup would make the cast of Kinky Boots jealous. Put it this way: If you don’t want it to end up on Snapchat, please refrain from engaging in your styling regimen on the train. (And it could end up on Snapchat, if my kids ever teach me how to use that damn thing.)


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3. I Don’t Want to Hear About Your Urology Appointment.

I think that says it all right there.


4. It’s Called the Quiet Car for a Reason

There is nothing like watching self-righteous “quieters” in the quiet car. You have never seen anything move as fast as we do against a cellphone talker. We will surround said offender and go from civilized and passive to Lord of the Flies in moments. So, try texting instead, and spare yourself the shame of being beaten up by Bob from Accounting.

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5. And, Finally, No Encroachment. 

I’d like you to pretend that there is a laser and that it sits right along that thin line of tubing that separates my seat from yours. Next, imagine that if you pass through that powerful imaginary laser, your elbows will be sliced off thinner than fresh turkey from the deli counter at Epstein’s. There’s a reason for that overhead rack, and it’s primarily to separate you from your puffy goose-down coat so that I can breathe for the next 37 minutes.

So, remember, just follow these quick rules, and we will all get along just fine in the shared space of our train trips. Also, when you get on the escalator at Grand Central, please remember the code: Stand on the right; walk on the left. I’ve got to get to work quickly, so I can finish up and make that 6:25 back to Westchester. 


Richard Lobel is a zoning attorney with an office in Midtown Manhattan. He lives in Irvington with his wife, Kelly, two sons, and a large, friendly dog. He feels fortunate to live in Westchester, having escaped the clutches of a childhood spent on the mean streets of Long Island.



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