Illustrator: Ashley Siebels
Commuting: there’s nothing like it. One person cuts you off on the road and your ride is ruined. One train-rider’s loud, twenty-minute phone call and you’re questioning why you never drive to work.
Americans used public transportation for 10.4 billion rides in 2016 alone, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Additionally, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly calling this the “Summer of Hell” (referencing a 1987 film) ahead of what is already shaping up to be a rough season for commuting in the city, people have the potential to be very stressed out on their way to and from work.
Here’s how to make the best of commuting—for yourself and others— no matter where you live.
Rest up, rest up, rest up
It can be tempting to think, Even though I’m up so late, I’ll be fine. I’ve been doing this for years— besides, I can just sleep on the train. But getting enough sleep at night can make you feel more alert in the morning, which means you’re probably less likely to plot your revenge on the person who hastily grabs a seat next to you on your commute.
Don’t leave late— the earlier, the better
You can still have a leisurely morning— just replace leaving on time with leaving early, and you’ll be better able to handle what comes your way.
Start getting ready for work the night before by packing lunch, picking out your outfit, or getting gas for your car.
Plan out alternative routes to and from work
If you live and/or work in a packed city like New York, there’s no guarantee that you won’t hit a couple roadblocks– metaphorical or literal— on your way to or from the office.
Whether you’re driving a car and come across major construction or an accident on the highway, or major train delays radically change your plans for getting in on time, make sure you’re covered with another way to get there, even if it adds time.
Don’t be disruptively loud
Yes, we all have important phone calls to make and take. Yes, music can raise one’s spirits in the morning, but it should be for your own enjoyment, so don’t blast it too loud.
If you were groggily sitting in a train car or at a stop light with your window down, would you want to be able to remember every detail of someone else’s conversation? Probably not.
Commuting should be a time of reflection and preparation for the day ahead, and it’s hard to get the clarity you need to start your day properly when all you can hear is a loud chat or music blaring though someone’s headphones.
Give others their space
As popular as “manspreading” may be, spreading your knees wide when you sit down naturally leaves less room for the people next to you— but this practice is not just limited to travelers in the US: it reportedly also happens in places like Japan and was prohibited in Madrid.
A New York Times article provides background on the concept.
“Women have theories about why some men sit this way. Some believe it is just a matter of comfort and may not even be intentional. Others consider it an assertion of power, or worse,” the article says.
However you identify, you’re capable of taking up extra space, and men are probably not the only ones guilty of this, but that doesn’t mean “manspreading” hasn’t caused women (and quite possibly other men) discomfort on packed transportation.
Be as patient as possible
As harrowing as commuting solo can be with delays and long distances, try and put yourself in other commuters’ shoes.
It’s clear that freaking out about a rough commute or a packed train—unless you are legitimately in danger— won’t make your commute go any smoother.
But by all means, you should definitely pack for what could turn into a dangerous commute so you have a solid foundation if you end up stranded somewhere due to transportation problems.
Use it as time away from technology
Spending a commute phone-free might not directly benefit others, but it can be a good way to reconnect with yourself. A HuffPost article shows how helpful this can be.
“Your commute may be the one part of the business day when you can disconnect. Whether you’re driving in your car or sitting on the subway, take advantage of that daily opportunity to unplug and recharge. Instead of checking your email and Twitter, texting friends, or making work calls, try powering down your phone until you get home or to the office. Once it becomes a habit, you may actually come to look forward to this tech-free time to read, meditate, reflect, or just be mindful,” it says.
What can you do without technology? You can read a book or a magazine, stare out the window, or even practice focusing on your breath, which is a powerful anti-anxiety technique.
There are ways to make commuting better for yourself and those around you— even when it’s the last thing you’d rather be doing.