We PopGurls are well-versed in all things commuting. Cars, buses, trains and planes – you name it, we’ve ridden it. (Minds out of the gutter, p
eople!) By now we have compiled a list of do’s and don’ts from our own personal (and usually very bitter) experiences. So, gentle reader and newbie traveler alike, read on and keep these thoughts in mind – it just may save you from getting slapped one day!
When Driving in Your Car:
(By Michelle, who has a 30 mile commute each way, every day)
1. Obey traffic signals.
To refresh your addled brains which have probably been compromised by years of sucking in carbon monoxide: Green=go. Yellow/amber=slow the fuck down. (Some people often confuse amber for the “speed up” sign. Not true. I checked.) Red=stop. (Note I said “stop.” Not “punch it” or “you can make it” or even “10 second rule, go for it!” Are you trying to fucking kill me? When it’s red or about to become red, stop your goddamn car. The light you are so desperate to get through will be green again in a few minutes. I promise.)
2. Put the make-up away.
If you can’t get out of bed early enough to apply that fresh face before walking out the door, do it at work. Because the next woman I see applying mascara as she tries to hop over five lanes to get to the 520 cut-off is going to get rear-ended by me. Consequences be damned.
3. Learn to drive in the rain.
I know, I know, I live in Seattle. The rest of the country probably assumes we know how to drive in the rain, just like we assume everyone in LA knows how to maneuver in the sun. Both of these, by the way, are falsehoods. Seattleites drive like assholes in the rain. A few pointers:
a. Turn on your headlights. You’d be amazed at how the rain affects visibility, as in, takes it almost completely away. I’m not sure why you do not have yours on, perhaps you are worried that people will think you’re not cool. But when you weigh that fact that it may save your life against this, I think you’ll figure out the right thing to do. Half the time I can’t see you without them, especially on roads with few lights and highways. And if you being an idiot causes me to hit you, I’m going to be pretty pissed.
b. If it’s raining heavily, slow down. Don’t be a tool. Wherever you’re going will still be there when you finally get there, got it? Take it down 10 miles per hour or so.
c. Pay attention to the cars ahead of you. Are they hydroplaning? Do they hit huge pockets of water? Keeping alert can not only keep you from having the shit scared out of you when you hit a puddle and are temporarily blinded by all of the water on your windshield, but it can also save my ass since you won’t be swerving blindly into my lane.
d. Expand the distance between you and the car in front of you. It is, for some reason, an oft-forgotten fact that your brakes do not work as well in the rain, especially if they have gotten soaked by the big ass puddle you just drove through. Giving yourself a good 5-10 second space in-between can save you.
4. Don’t be a dumbass.
If you’ve missed your turn, go an extra block and turn around. Do not attempt to turn right from the far left lane. Contrary to your belief, I will hit you. Following this vein of thought, if you’ve spaced out and your freeway exit is coming up within the next two seconds and you are not in the exit lane, chill the fuck out. Another will come up. Get over in a polite and non-insane manner, find another exit, and get back on the freeway. And next time, pay attention.
5. Don’t pretend you can’t see me.
Nothing pisses me off more than when another motorist ignores you. We have all at some point needed to get over. Every morning, my commute requires that I get over four or five lanes in less than two miles. Should be easy enough, right? Unfortunately, the world, or maybe just Seattle, is populated with assholes who seem to think that you are not their problem and/or that letting you over will drastically reduce their commute time. Don’t be an asshole. Let me over.
[loki: Oh! Oh! And those who don’t give the ‘Friendly Driver Wave’ really peeve me. It’s not that hard people – if someone let’s you in, just give a little wave. It’s only proper, and people who don’t do it – well, there’s a special place in hell for you.]
6. Use your cellphone responsibly.
I’m not going to get all preachy and tell you to put it away. Forget it, we’re all guilty of whipping it out on a drive and I’m attempting to tone down any overt hypocrisy here. However, there should be some rules. If you have speaker phone or one of those annoying headsets, use it. If you have voice recognition dialing, use it. If you do not, wait until you are stopped at a traffic light, rather than, say, barreling down I-5, to dial. I can’t even tell you how many times I have almost been hit by someone who was watching their keypad intently rather than the road. It’s making me a bit twitchy. Also, if you are one of those people that cannot keep their mind on driving while carrying on a conversation, do us all a favor and save the conversation until later. If you can’t discuss the latest gossip while keeping an eye out for people trying to get over or people slamming on their brakes, or any other kind of random emergency, don’t do it. And if you drop your phone, leave it. If you can’t leave it, pull over before bending down to search for it. Thank you.
7. Follow the speed minimum.
If you are a nervous highway driver and are not comfortable driving 60 or above, that’s fine. I’m happy you know your limits. However, that being said, stay the fuck out of my lane. The far right lane is for slow traffic. If the lane becomes an exit only, ride it out as long as you can and then move yourself over to the new far right lane. Do not, under any circumstances, place yourself in the two far left lanes and then go 50 miles an hour. This is a good way to get yourself shot.
8. If you see the cop, he’s already got you.
Slamming on your brakes and going 50 does nothing other than piss me off. Driving 50 or below for the next mile or two after you’ve seen the cop, just in case, will only cause me to have homicidal thoughts. Continue to drive normally, mmkay?
9. Learn to merge.
Merging can be scary, no one’s denying this. Especially with all the assholes out there who want to drive in the right lane but don’t want to let you in. I’ve been run off the road, I know the anxiety you’re probably going through. However, that does not excuse you from merging like a dumbass. Get your car up to speed, gauge the distance between you and the car beside you and go for it. Do not try to merge at five miles an hour. Do not speed up and then slow down and then speed up again before slamming on your brakes. This will only confuse and/or piss off the person already in the lane. In some instances, it may cause them to hit you. Do us all a favor, and on those days when you just don’t think you can do it, you just can’t merge appropriately one more time or you can’t handle the stress, take the backroads. Or, alternately, do what I used to do and drive a little out of your way to find the entrances that don’t require merging. Everyone wins!
10. Don’t stare.
Yes, I may be singing loudly in my car. You may even be able to figure out that I am doing the abbreviated, car-dance routine to “Bye Bye Bye.” Or, perhaps I am talking to myself. Whatever. The important thing here is that I am not talking to you. Or singing and dancing for you. So stop staring. It’s rude. Also, pointing me out to the passengers in your car is poor form. So don’t do it, or I can’t be held responsible for the actions of my middle finger.
When Riding a Bus or Train:
(By Amy, who logged 15 hours on a bus just last week)
1. Turn off your god.damn.cell.phone.
People have no idea how insanely irritating this is. Now, I have a cell phone and I do make calls – but they are usually to tell someone where to pick me up, and last a minute or so, tops. I do not pull out my phone book and proceed to call everyone I know. Nor do I have any of these hour-long conversations that are loud enough for the bus to hear. I was once woken up by a woman screaming – SCREAMING – “Are you at the DINER? The DINER? Is THAT where you are?” I turned around several times to shoot her nasty looks. About five minutes later, she made some comment about getting looks and that she had to go. Let me just say that she’s lucky I didn’t get up and slap her. I was tempted.
2. Get in and out of your seat in a timely manner.
I realize this sounds stupid and petty, but it annoys me. These people who get on and stand in the aisle as they take off sixty million layers and have to put each and every one in the ledge above the seat. And then they go through their bag, picking out what they’ll need for the trip before adding that to the pile above as well. All the while, there is a line of folks waiting to find a seat of their very own. I say, just grab your stuff, move in and then readjust. There’s enough space and time to do all this before the vehicle gets moving. Oh, and on the reverse – when it’s time to go, gather your things a few minutes ahead of time. This way you’re not holding up everyone else who desperately wants to get home.
3. Pick the seat that will bother the least amount of people.
This morning, some guy decided he had to sit next to me. Half the bus was empty, and there were plenty of empty seats on my side. I had to completely readjust myself and my things just to give him room. There was no need for this. I do not understand why people insist upon sitting in the inconvenient seats. One of these days I’m going to start an anthropological study and take polls, because I want to know. And I’ll try not to slap anyone as I go along.
4. Headphones are your friends.
I’ve been guilty of this, I admit. But I’ve been guilty of it unknowingly – whenever anyone points out that my music is a bit too loud, I’m more than happy to turn the volume down. I expect the same of others. Well that, and for them not to sing along. That happens more times than you’d think.
5. Clean up after your messy ass.
It’s quite simple: If you bring it on, take it off. No one wants to clean up your soda/beer cans, your bags of leftovers, or your newspapers. Bus drivers and train conductors are paid to get your sorry ass to and fro safely, not to be your maid.
6. Escalators: Left is for passing, yo.
While not specific to commuting, a lot of train and bus stations have escalators. And a lot of escalators have people hanging out on the left side, so that no one can go past. This turns me into a huffing, foot-stomping impetuous person. I know it’s childish, but we all have our pet peeves. Think of it like a highway, slow folks on the right, fast folks on the left. Know when you’re in the left lane and some jerk doing 10 below the speed limit pulls in front of you? Don’t you just want to smack them? Same here. If you’re not in a rush, stay to the right. If you’re in a large group, stay to the right. It’s just that easy.
When Riding in an Airplane:
(By Amanda, who is gold or platinum in at least three different frequent traveler programs)
1. Follow the FCC guidelines.
When the flight attendant tells you that all electronic devices must be in the off position once the doors shut, he or she means it. Turn off your fucking PDA, and PLEASE turn off your cell phone. People around you may be harboring serious fears of flying, and when your phone rings as the wheels are leaving the runway, it FREAKS. ME. The FUCK. OUT. Especially because a pilot once told me that such things actually do matter, especially when the aircraft is taking off. Sure, he was drunk at the time, but pilots don’t lie, man.
2. Befriend the skycap and visit him frequently.
You know those little “your luggage must be this size” boxes that sit at the mouth of every jetway? I know that in most cases the flight attendants won’t make you stick to that, but it’d be great if you would follow the guideline anyway. If your roller bag is so big that you’re whacking into every person in an aisle seat while you’re heading to your own, for god’s sake, check it. Put things that are important to you into smaller carry-on bags, and think of how nice it’ll be to not have to lug all those extra pounds on the plane! It really doesn’t take any extra time to retrieve your bag. Seriously. There is no better invention in air travel than curbside check in.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
I’ve noticed a lot lately that business people travel in uncomfortable shoes, and then proceed to take them off for the duration of the flight. This is fine in first class, where the flight attendants will often provide little booties to keep your feet warm (and reduce the chances that I will smell your rancid feet). When you’re in business or economy class, however, the air is already full of perfume/cigarette smoke/body odor/etc. No one needs the added stench of your feet in the mix. If you MUST take off your shoes, please make sure that your socks are clean or that you use Odor Eaters.
4. Your seatmates are not necessarily your new best friends.
If the person sitting next to you has headphones on and is studiously reading a book, you should probably leave him/her alone. You shouldn’t ask what music he/she is listening to, and you should absolutely not read the book or magazine (no matter how sneaky you think you’re doing it). I do a lot of writing when I travel, not on my laptop, but with a pen and notebook. This is not an invitation to talk to me about your own writing ambitions or rant about how computers have taken over modern society. Just because we both have wedding rings on, doesn’t mean we should bond over having spouses. You have to learn to read the signs. Eye contact is an opening for you to talk, as is my nervous laughter during takeoff. If I’m not doing anything but toying with the latch on the seatback tray table, it’s probably okay for you to ask me where I’m going and why. But know when the conversation is over, and deal with it. Some people hate small talk, and I’m one of them.
5. Mind your own space.
You have purchased exactly one seat, one and a half armrests, and the space underneath the seat in front of you. Do not spill over into my legroom. Do not hog the armrest. If you truly feel the need to lift up the armrest between us, please ask my permission first. There are boundaries to how close I want to sit to a perfect stranger. If you are a man, and you sit in the customary spread-leg or ankle-on-knee positions, please take the hint when our knees are constantly clashing for the same space.