Taryn Parrish
September 28, 2013 10:00 am

There’s nothing quite like a ride on public transit. Where else can you experience world class, economical travel while striking up a conversation with a man that has a ponytail beard? Whether you’re on the subway, streetcar or bus, public transit is full of characters. Here are the top 12:

1) The Too Close for Comfort: Public transit is certainly no haven for personal space. During rush hour especially, it’s not uncommon to accidentally make it to second base with a stranger or for someone to unknowingly whip their dreadlocks across your face.

The Too Close for Comfort, however, is someone who crosses the invisible line that is personal space when there’s no reason for it – the entire bus is empty and they saunter on over and sit right next to you. Comfort denied!

2) The Sleeper: There must be something about a jerky transit ride coupled with the faint smell of urine to lull this commuter into a peaceful slumber.

3) The Reads Over Your Shoulder: This is the person that has brought nothing to entertain themselves with for their journey, so they hover over your shoulder and get involved with your life. They mentally do your crosswords, they check out your music selection, they read your book and they lurk your texts. Inevitably, you start to get a little self-conscious – should you be loading that text message with exclamation points, listening to Aqua or reading 50 Shades of Grey in public? It’s like being a 7th grader on MSN with a parent in the room.

4) The Keanu Reeves: This person has seen the public transit thriller Speed one too many times (if that’s even possible!). They fancy themselves a real life police officer Jack Traven who must do all they can to prevent commuter chaos. Except this time, there’s no bomb, no absolute speed limit, no crazy Dennis Hopper – there’s just a bunch of transit courtesy rules that seem to need enforcing. You’ll catch the Keanu Reeves yelling orders like “Give up your seat!” “Stand to the right!” “Hold on!”

Yet, the Jack Traven Keanu never seems to be around to police the type of characters in this article, so you may instead encounter an alternate Keanu character. The Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure who constantly says “whoa,” or The Neo from The Matrix who talks your ear off about an alternate reality.

5) The Cell Phoner: Yes, we’re all on public transit fiddling with our phones, praying that the lady with the forehead tattoo won’t start asking where we live, but the Cell Phoner is someone who has loud, intimate conversations on their phone, forcing everyone else to hear about their dog’s terminal illness or their upcoming bunion removal surgery.

6) The Jammer: Public transit is chock-full of people trying to ignore each other by wearing their headphones and listening to their personal playlist. The Jammer, on the other hand, likes to mix things up and share the latest remix with everyone by either blasting it straight from their iPod or from a classic boom box, transforming your lonely subway car into a low energy rave cave.

7) The Sick Person: There is nothing more terrifying than watching a pink-eyed, runny-nosed person aggressively cough into their palm for a solid two minutes – horking up billions of minute molecules of infection – and then quietly wrap their disease-ridden hand around the pole grip.

8) The Surfer: The aforementioned inevitably leads to the surfer – and not the “hang ten” type. This character is fearful of the germs and bacteria that surely grow on all public transportation surfaces. They refrain from sitting down or holding onto a pole and instead choose to stagger themselves best they can in the middle of the vehicle – knees bent, arms slightly out, while still trying to keep it casual. This is urban dare devilism at its best. Sometimes you’ll catch them in the occasional lean, and sometimes you’ll literally catch them.

9) The Teens: Teenagers can be amazing and thoughtful and intelligent and all of these things, but there is something about a large group of teens on public transit that gets them all revved up. So much noise, PDA, selfies, eyeliner, Axe body spray, angst and the inevitable swinging and hanging from the pole grips.

10) The Judgemental Tourist: Some tourists want a medal for seeing the city like locals do – through the foggy, stained windows of a public transit vehicle while trying not to get hit the face by a flying toenail clipping.

The Judgemental Tourist asks for directions, which is fine, but if you’re not quite sure or you haven’t seen the latest at the museum, they accuse you of “not knowing your city” or of “not being a real city person.” Interestingly, this judgement seems to happen while someone snatches their wallet from their fanny pack. Who’s street smart now?

11) The Bag Buddy: One seat for them, one for their bag, none for you.

12) The Nothing: This person does absolutely nothing. They just sit down and stare straight ahead for the entire journey. No phone, no book, no germs, no attitude. What’s their game?!

Happy Travels!

Feature image via, Dreads via, Sleeper via, Surly Teen via, Speed via, Cell Phoner via, Boombox via, Pole Grip via, Fall via, Teens via, Toenail Clipper via, Gretchen via

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