Stuck in the Bathroom

Stuck in the bathroom is one thing; stuck in a train bathroom is hell.

Imagine the world moving outside while you painfully suffer in immobility surrounded by heat and grime.

On the outside, fellow passengers are trying to help you escape. Other passengers sit and watch avoiding embarrasment; after all, no one wants to help a person escape from a train bathroom.

The conductor is nowhere to be found. Two minutes turn into a lifetime, every second is a battle of patience and hope.

Confinement is stressfull. It doesn’t matter how big or small the cage is; no one, not even animals, like to be locked up for any reason. The freedom to move boundlessly is a human right.

The train tracks tick like years off a clock. We all want to leave in a dent on society before our last train stop. But sometimes we can’t do it alone.

(as seen in the Metro North Diaries collection on Medium)


Unnecessary Urgency

We all want to get ahead, be first. But with more speed comes more stress. This mentality can even turn friends into antagonists.

Unassigned seating produces a game of Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest.” Every passenger is protective of their seat because of the intense work it takes to find one. Every second of hesitation counts.

Seating is just step one in the process of urgency. People then pull out their phones and melt into their own worlds. Now they want to be first online; the first to like or comment on a Instagram post, the first to tweet breaking news.

The rapid pace of the Internet makes passengers even more tight and agitated. Even the slightest foot or elbow into someone’s pathway ignites hatred: “This is my space. Step back.”

The fear of missing out (Fomo) makes people mean. It makes train passengers compete for seat; it makes Internet users compete over engagement.

Take a step back. Maybe even just stand and turn the phone off, getting away from all the noise and unnecessary jealousy and rage.

You can try to get ahead but it’s really not saving you that much time, nor does being first make a significant impact on your life or anyone else’s; it’s just selfish. Wind down, relax.

(Follow the Metro North Diaries on Medium)


Short on Cars

Riding a train short in cars turns everyone into a sardine. People are forced to squeeze together, touching elbows and pant legs, holding bags on their lap.   

Like a social network, when you constrain comfort for usability people get frustrated.  Everything becomes an annoyance:  the ubiquitous ads on the train’s walls, the $250 monthly train pass, the sounds of the train collector’s ticket punching, and the sporadic passenger conversations left and right.    

People hate noise and clutter.  That’s why so many users left MySpace for Facebook.  Myspace was a wasteland where page personalization, banners, and widgets created design disorder and chaotic functionality.  Facebook provided a clean, standardized experience, a closed environment where Facebook’s design control benefited the user experience.     

Fast forward to today, however, and Facebook is becoming more like the old Myspace.  Realizing that real-time conversation is what really drives ad dollars, Facebook is desperate to emulate the openness of Twitter.  Over the last couple weeks, Facebook has welcomed hashtags and image uploads within comments.  

Openness goes against Facebook’s roots as a private social network.  By cramping the platform with more open communication layers it’s severely limiting the user experience. 

People want clean space.  People want to be in their own world.  People want sufficient space so they can sit next to open seats and relax.  

Sometimes constriction is a force of creativity; sometimes it forces unnecessary angst.  You don’t want your passengers and users hating each other, hating the platform, hating the employees who work on it, and getting off to a bad start or end to their day.  

Keep it clean, keep it sleek.  Let people breathe.  


One Foot In, One Foot Out

There’s always one person who sticks their foot inside the train doors as soon as they open.

Marking your territory preempts other boarding passengers from getting ahead. It also makes it more difficult for those exiting the train.

There’s a big difference between being aggressive and cheating just to get ahead.

Playing by the rules means that participants have to play harder, think smarter, and prepare one step ahead. The first step to fair advancement is ensuring that you show up on time, even before everyone else.

Cutting corners, fence sitting with one foot on the train and another foot on the track, is a sure way to win nothing but a little extra convenience for your impatience and creating a lot of danger for others coming out the opposite way. Stay in your lane.

Everyone is equal at the start. Naturally, some play wiser and act quicker than others. Proper urgency begets evolution.

If you want to advance, do it the right way. Make preparations. Do it with equanimity. And occasionally, do it for someone else. Give up your seat to someone who really needs it more, like that old lady.

Cheaters never win; they just make other people mad. Know your place and stay within the boundaries.


Borrow my phone, borrow my life

People break their phones, lose their phones, and run out of power. It happens to everybody at least once.

When you’re the person that asks to borrow someone else’s phone on the train to make a call, you feel the their fear. Why would they trust a stranger with their phone, the hard drive storing their life?

The Smartphone is even more personal than a laptop or home computer. It holds just about everything. Allowing an unknown person to borrow it even for a minute is a quick judgement call. Trust your gut.

Of course, a lot goes into that gut decision. How familiar are you with that person? How did they behave before they asked to borrow your phone? Are they wearing a suit, jeans, or rags? Do they speak English? Does ethnicity impact your decision?

Everyone decides before they decide.. Knowledge and experience predict your bias. The only variables are understanding and guilt. Are we too quick to deny helping or are we too stupid and empathetic to give in only to be duped?

Thieves are just hackers that don’t know how to code. Yet their piracy is equally damaging and disruptive. Getting a new phone is like rebuilding a new life. It’s a lot of work even if most of your information is backed up in the cloud.

Be careful what you agree to. Saying “No” is not a copout; it’s just a way of playing it safe. Saying “Yes” is risky but potentially more satisfying. Helping makes anyone feel good.

Pity the fool for having any true feelings.

(Read more from the Train Diaries collection on Medium)



The last people to get off the train in the morning are the ones that really don’t want to go to work.

They cling on to their seats, looking for every excuse to keep reading, chatting, or listening to music. They’d use the seats as a mattress if they could.

Most of the resistance is due to burnout. People don’t know how to pace themselves. With ubiquitous Internet, we’re always on and always working. We enjoy the freedom to work from anywhere yet mentally we feel tied to the office.

What people are really searching for at work and in life is flow. Work and play can be one continuous stream. Take advantage of the cloud; dump everything (personal ideas, next steps, documents) into one place like Evernote and Dropbox. Create shortcuts on iffft to automate tasks. Let the computer, a second brain, do the work.

9 to 5 at work is where ideas are made to happen. Meetings and distractions are the inevitable and unforeseeable hurdles that impede progress. Sometimes they’re necessary.

To sustain energy, take a digital sabbath on the weekends. Make a deliberate effort to go on a digital diet and just escape into the old mind. Allow the neurons to connect new ideas and make revelations without even thinking.

We already own everything we need. Information is accessible at a touch of a button. Today is more a matter of silencing what we don’t want. Technology works for us, not the other way around.