Public transit etiquette: Don’t be ‘that guy’ on the train

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I recently started working a job uptown that necessitates an hour-long commute on Frontrunner. My preferred method of transportation is driving, so I’m a newcomer to the world of public transportation. So far, I’ve found it a fun experience due to the scenic views, the lack of traffic and the ability to focus on other things. It’s not always easy planning my day on UTA’s timetable, but I make it work.

However, there are drawbacks to public transport. Namely, the other passengers. As Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote in his play No Exit, “Hell is other people.”

I may not be the most qualified to give advice on bus and train etiquette, but the past three weeks have taught me some important lessons.


There’s not much in the world that’s worse than the guy who feels the need to bust out his sloppy, aromatic buffalo wings on a packed train. Yes, we know you don’t have enough time to eat that behemoth of a chicken bucket at home or work. You’ve made that abundantly clear. But did you have to pick the most unwieldy meal possible? You knew you were going to be elbow to elbow with strangers on this rush-hour train, man. Pick something that doesn’t make your fellow commuters hate you.

For those who must eat on public transport, stick to dry finger foods that don’t stain. If you must have a drink, keep it in a bottle or a cup with a lid. If a knife and fork need to be involved, think twice.


Remember when I said there’s “not much” that’s worse than a messy eater on the train? This is what I meant. Several nights ago, I was commuting home from class when a pungent smell hit my nose. We were traveling through a rural area, so I assumed there were skunks hanging out in the hills near the tracks. At that moment, somebody on the lower deck started laughing like a particularly mellow hyena. When the odor didn’t go away, a gentleman in the next seat turned to me and said, with a furrowed brow, “Do you smell weed?” That’s when I realized it was the other type of skunk that I was smelling. Sure enough, as I exited, I made eye contact with a group of hipsters giggling at what was apparently a very funny joke, their ringleader grasping a lit joint.

I realize that marijuana has been gaining more legal and cultural acceptance in our country recently, but have we really come to the point where it’s okay to light-up on a closed metal tube, around perfect strangers who didn’t ask to be a part of your little party? If it were a tobacco cigarette, people would still be angry at you, what makes you think a joint is okay?


I’m always wary of people who complain about “kids these days” or “this stupid, conceited generation.” In my opinion, “kids these days” should be revised to “kids all days.” With age comes maturity—hopefully. You can’t blame this crop of kids for being young and dumb. It’s called youth for a reason.

That being said, I don’t understand how some younger teenagers think it’s acceptable to play music without headphones in public. Do they have no theory of mind? Are these teens expecting everybody to appreciate their esoteric taste in music and get up to sing and dance in the aisle? News flash kid: life isn’t a Coca-Cola commercial. Headphones exist for a reason.


On two occasions, I’ve seen people forget they were surrounded by dozens of strangers and project their voice throughout the cabin like an actor trying to reach the back row. One was an old lady yelling into her phone as if she needed to make up for the physical distance between her and the other party in order to be heard. I was ten rows away and learned more than I ever wanted to know about her grandkids. She has a grandson named Jackson. Jackson recently got into med school and had his second kid. He sounded like a nice guy.

Another time a group of teens walked on board talking loudly, laughing and throwing around offensive slurs just because it was fun to be “edgy”. The worst part was that these kids seemed to think they were master conversationalists, treating each topic with an odd arrogance and premature nostalgia: “Remember Lady Gaga? Classic, man, classic.” I had to endure those little twerps for the next five stations.

You need to remember that public transportation is an assortment of strangers packed like sardines. If you wouldn’t want somebody doing or saying something while crammed into your personal bubble, don’t do it on the train. It’s really that simple