Prior to the pandemic, an estimated 34 million times each weekday, people boarded public transportation. In 2019 alone, Americans took 9.9 billion trips on public transportation, according to the APTA. The numbers speak for themselves, making commuting a quintessential part of our pre-Covid lives.
But what makes being crammed into a tiny space with more strangers that you could count a one-of-a-kind experience is the sense of the unexpected. The colors, smells, glances, murmurs, the sounds of clearing one’s throat, it has it all. The good, the bad, and the weird.
So, when James Felton, a comedy writer with 278.5K followers on Twitter, asked people “What’s the weirdest thing you saw on your commute?” it just seemed natural that everyone would have a lot to share in that department.
Let’s see what happens behind the sweaty doors of our urban rapid systems where the things you see stay with you for all time.
Image credits: JimMFelton
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When asked how James got the idea to ask his followers about the weirdest things that happened to them while commuting, he recounted an incident which got him thinking if it was only him feeling weirded out on the train.
“I was just thinking about how weird it was that I used to commute every day, happily sat in the luggage rack like a bag, when I remembered that a guy brought out a potato from his briefcase (no foil, just loose) and began crunching away like it was a fine pear, and wondered if anybody had similar tales.”
The comedy writer believes thatmany people found the question so relatable since “I’m pretty sure everyone who commutes has a story like this (or far weirder), it’s just what happens when you cram half of humanity into a tin two times a day, five days a week.”
Public transport being a perfect place for the weird and the weirder things of the world to occur is no secret to anyone. The question “Why are there always weird people on the bus?” was recently posed on Quora, where people shared their insights on the matter.
According to Rob Davis, retired bus supervisor, it may come down to the fact that public transport bears a “concentration of those whose situation keeps them from owning a car,” which suggests that people from all walks of life come together under this one big moving roof.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of stigma on people who travel in the US by public transport. It’s not a secret that some commuters are labeled “weirdos” because of their distinctive looks, odd behaviors etc. However, as long as nobody does any harm and abides by the public rules, no one, especially those who’re most vulnerable, deserves to be looked down upon.
But commuting as we knew it before is likely to change after the pandemic is over. Many people are now opting for healthier and safer alternatives like bikes. In fact, the decrease in public transport has made the air quality around the world way better, and with bikes staying as a popular commute alternative, the chances are, the cleaner air will partly remain this way.
Commuting has also been affected by the newly established work from home model. As the previous stigma against it has disappeared during the pandemic, it’s now expected that many remote workers will intend to work from home even after the pandemic is over.
This will immensely impact public transportation, and according to Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University, we are going to see major shifts. “It’s going to have broader implications for urban planning and for residential and commercial design as well,” she commented.