Commuter Etiquitte & the recommended Commuter Survival Kit

If there is one thing train commuters have in common, it’s that every single one of us has a minimum of 3 crazy, I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened experiences.

Just like many Melburnians, I am a work commuter. On average in a week, I spend ten hours – just under half a day on the train! That is a whole lot of time! But for those of us curious about human behavior, this time gives for ample opportunity for observation. And boy does it deliver! Just for clarification, I am no a psychologist.

First and foremost, commuter etiquette is entirely time dependent. This may sound odd, that’s because human behavior on the train is often that; odd, unusual, surprising and entertaining.
Take a morning, peak hour commute (6.30am to 8.30am)(during the day time, the level of ‘woooaaah reeeally?’ can hit a whole new level), you have a number of scenarios playing out in pockets of the carriages. You have people eating breakfast; women (and some males) applying their face of make up for the day. You have conversations between people who have coordinated their commute, however in the often near silent journey, their conversations are amplified. You have the sleepers who desperately seek the window seat as something to lean against. You have the readers and their ever changing facial expressions in response to their material; you have the students shuffling through their school homework, all crumpled and then re-shoving it in their bag. There are the workers, busily and stressful typing away on their laptops. The Facebookers who scroll away through news, games and gossip to occupy their time. If you listen (often without any attempt), you will hear the music preferences of those around as well as personal conversations people must make and regardless of how quiet they are – and to those commuters, don’t be fooled – we can all still hear everything!
So after 8 years of on the job, observational experience, these are my tips on etiquette.

1. Minimization.

I refer to your luggage that you haul with you on the train. Be mindful that should you wish to be seated in the normal seats, the allotted space to you is the space between your legs on the floor and whatever you can hold on your lap. That is all. Not the seat beside you nor those in front. Should you require more train real estate, you may be required to stand. Or deal with the deathly glares of the standing commuters.  For those commuters who are lucky to live close enough to the city destination, yet cursed with the ill fortune of having to stand as there are no available seats during peak hour, commuter etiquette is still applicable.  Should you wish to read standing, be mindful that you are not forcing your fellow commuter to read the same materials you have virtually shoved in their face.  We are all aware that while your body is learning great balancing skills in not falling on your face and onto your fellow commuters when the train unexpectedly sways and I concede it is very much a skill to ‘train surf’ within the carriage, there are designated locations to hold on.  Here is where the important train etiquette comes in – be mindful not to lean against the pole, taking away opportunities for others to hold on for dear life; move down the carriage if there is room – there is nothing more annoying than hearing someone yell from the train platform to ‘move down the isle’!  To those yelling to push people down the isle, be conscious that they may not have something to hold onto…

The message of minimization is to be conscious of your personal space and to know that sometimes on the commute, you won’t even be afforded that much space.

2. Eating Consideration

Be considerate of your breakfast choice. We are all hungry when we have no time to scoff our breakfast before leaving the house, however perhaps opt for less poignant options. How about just a solid suggestion of no eggs! Simple. Whilst any other food source is acceptable, let’s take that back to basic – eat with your mouth shut. Simple.

3. Hygiene

Learn about your personal hygiene. Basic. If your nose is running, blow it! With a tissue! Especially in winter! To sit for an entire train ride to hear someone trying to catch their escaping nose occupants with a full and hearty snort that turns the egg eater off their breakfast may be karma against the egg eater but stomach turning for the rest of us. Further, overt nose pickers minus a tissue will be stared down with laser beam death stares. Public service announcement: Carry tissues at all times! It should be part of your survival kit for public transport (you will find my survival kit recommendations below).

In regards to your body odour, my basic tip on etiquette is one simple rule.  Shower. Shower.  Shower.  Apply deodorant – after you shower.  I’m all for living liberally and appreciating the environment and saving water, however I find it near impossible to hold my breath for a 50 minute train ride because my nasal passages are heavily assaulted by the waft of your lack of hygiene.  For those with genuine body odour issues, I apologies if you take offence with my honesty and lack of sensitivity, however I cannot tell the non-washers apart from those with issues.  In the overall scheme of the issue, I am trapped in a confined space unable to breathe.

4. Personal Grooming

Be considerate about what personal grooming you engage in. Make up application is (in my opinion) inoffensive. I particularly find it fascinating watching a beauty make over during my train ride (I inadvertently run commentary in my head like those extreme makeover tv shows). However, do not confuse make up application with such activities as cutting your nails, shaving unwanted hair and plucking eyebrows (although the latter is borderline for me)… There is nothing more concerning and disgusting than shielding yourself from rogue cuttings flinging all over the place!  I am considerate of the personal choices for the use of commuters time, however there is a clear line between getting things done on the train that saves time (ie. eating and make up application) and things that should be carried out in your personal space such as cutting nails and shaving…no idea how that is ever acceptable…

 5. Human Consideration
This next part will take you back to the time when you were in primary school and your parents or teachers would give a lesson on basic human consideration.  Respect those around you.  On the train, I am astounded by how many people turn away and pretend to be so occupied by their phone or the window to avoid eye contact with the pregnant lady or the elderly passenger.  It frustrates me to no end that able body people who are heading into an office where they will be sitting for the next 8 hours, cannot give up their seat for someone who actually needs it.
Common sense unsurprisingly plays a huge part in how random strangers are expected to interact in a confined space – but that is somewhat more of the exception than the rule.
Commuter Survival Kit
Now, I hear you scoff at such a suggestion, however just as every boy (or girl) scout is ready for any situation, as a commuter the very same rules apply.
You can never be too prepared for a train emergency of varying degrees, whether it be a very delayed train; a train cancellation whilst you are on the train and you have to walk a distance; a runny nose; a sardine packed train carriage or anything really – the possibilities are endless!
Here are my suggestions for your very own Commuter Survival Kit:
1. Always make sure your phone has enough battery – you never know when you will need to:
(a) Call work to tell them you are running late;
(b) Call home / friends / appointments to tell them you are running late;
(c) Call someone to collect you when the train literally refuses to take you any further;
(d) Call someone to keep you awake on the train in fear that you will fall asleep and drool on the person beside you;
(e) Entertain yourself with Facebook, Pinterest, games and all the other magical ways you can waste time on the train; and
(d) To provide you a space of personal music concert if you have music on your phone…remember the headphones!  Been caught out many times without the headphones – and before you ask – unless you are open to criticism from the entire train carriage and willing to play music that everyone likes and will enjoy – no headphones no music…
2. Have paper material to read in the event that your phone has died and staring out the window will not entertain you for long enough.
3. T I S S U E S !  I cannot stress this one enough – basic!
4. Hand sanitizer – post commute – sometimes the old trains leave you feeling like you need a hydro bath!
5. Sensible shoe options!  I recommend thongs or ballet flats in your handbag.  This will allow a quick change over in the event you are forced off the train and need to walk a fair distance.
6. Warm clothes – all year round.  If you are fortunate enough to be a window sitter, there is the most awful blowing cold air that rains down on you for the entire commute!  It’s almost just the compromise that if you get window seat, you get the coldest part of the train..
7. Always remember to bring your manners!
Happy commuting!
~ F.P

#100 Happy Days Conquered!

There are triggers in life that set thoughts into motion. As I sit here wearing my honesty pants (and admittedly often these pants are difficult to wear), I reflect upon my actions, particularly over the last 100 or so days.
To put this comment into context, I have just completed a 100 day challenge to post images that reflect my happiness.

Easy‘…you say…
It’s just one photo a day!‘…you say…
You are such a positive person, so it’s easy for you!

And one question that made me laugh and still makes me laugh –

Do you always wake up this positive?

These are beautiful compliments but not quite the correct view of my reality. Perception – Hold that word.

There are a few things I want to clarify:
1) I am not always a positive, radiant and happy soul. It takes work. A lot of attention to be had to my thoughts, words and actions;
2) Not every moment of every day is happy – sometimes the image captures a literal snapshot of a resemblance of happy;
3) Some moments that actually made me happy were kept to myself – I felt I needed to keep some things private from the world;
4) Revealing things that make you happy is like getting naked and inviting strangers to inspect your beauty marks on every crevices of your body;
4) The feedback was a reminder of how far reaching positivity can get.

I grew up in a family home that encouraged appreciation, gratitude and acceptance. I was taught this in a powerful and memorable way – through the interactions and observations of my parents, not from lengthy lectures on the importance of being positive. My parents didn’t read books about it, nor attend seminars on how to be positive – they just were. Equally my parents had no time to preach it to us, they were too busy doing it!

For as long as I can remember, negativity in many forms were eradicated from our home. The most impacting rule in our home was the word ‘hate’ was strictly prohibited. My parents never spoke using it and it was a word virtually ripped away before it had the opportunity to tumble from our tongues. My dad would calmly tell me that it’s such a strong, harsh word and we should never be the ones that put it out into the world. That was a very strong lesson for me in understanding my responsibilities as a citizen of this world – I am responsible for my spoken word, every word has impact as though it leaves a footprint upon the universe.

I watched the countless interactions my parents had with others. They were compassionate, thoughtful and non judgmental. I wasn’t ever privy to gossipy conversations by them either. They always reminded me that I could never know what the person was personally experiencing, nor was it my business to know their business. They also taught me it didn’t matter anyway, I was to treat people respectfully, just as I wanted to be treated. That may be better discussed in another blog….

When I saw my fabulous friend Kylie (http://alohahappycampers.wordpress.com/) start this challenge, I was intrigued by the hash tag #100happydays. It was something long enough in time to truly equate to a challenge. I took it… Boy was it a challenge!
What I learned next challenged a great deal of my thinking. Every day required me to step back and assess every situation and whether it could be properly defined as a ‘happy moment’. ‘Click‘ – shot captured. Then came the questions of whether it amounted to a visually acceptable photo… then the caption… what to write? How to convey my happiness through this brief moment? The perception that judgment would follow and a judgment that I had openly welcomed into my world.  A judgment that had an impact on many different levels.

As I conclude the challenge and after a great many, lengthy conversations with Kylie, she has published a blog about this project and has put specific questions to me that I reveal have required time to contemplate and answer honestly. Here are my thoughts:

 

1. What did you learn about yourself during the project?

First and foremost, that is a somewhat confronting question ~ but I did learned a number of things about myself during the project.

I learned:

– That I wasn’t previously as mindful of the small things I experience as I thought I was;

– That I need to actually appreciate the little things that do make up my life;

– That I don’t easily accept compliments;

– That I had the capacity and determination to complete such a lengthy challenge; and

– That I have the ability to look at things in detail and often find the most simple thing can have a great deal of depth.

 

2. Did you learn anything about other people?

This question immediately reminds me of a scene in the movie, Dead Poets Society.  Mr. Keating the new English teacher encourages the students to stand on his desk and take a view of the world from another perspective.

Dead Poets Society

I learned that:

– People are very kind and encouraging but that people find it difficult enjoy the happiness of others when they are having difficulties;

– People are more willing to open up when you have exposed your own vulnerabilities by sharing very personal things, whether they are positive or negative.

– People want to be happy but they might find it difficult to locate the happiness.  People think something big needs to happen to be happy (ie. ‘I will be happy when…’.

– People see what they want to see – With every image, people will take away what they want from that photo.  It may depict a happy moment for me, yet another person may be affected in a completely different way.  Perspectives – the beauty of art!

 

3. Did anything unexpected happen?

One unexpected thing to happen was that I found so many people in ‘real life’ making comments about the challenge itself, as well as the photos I was posting.  That shouldn’t be too unexpected given these people were connected to me on Facebook, however I was very surprised at how many people were following my progress.

Somewhere in the ’80’s, I felt overwhelmed with all of the sharing and was in desperate need of hitting the pause button on life for the briefest moment.  The unexpected response I received was overwhelming to say the least!  I received text messages, private inbox messages, in person check ins, all from those concerned.  It reminded me that humanity is such a beautiful thing.

 

4. What will you do next?

Next…next I will return to blogging about other things.  I will be taking a short break from posting pictures on Facebook – Everything in moderation.

 

Thank you for the ongoing messages of support and encouragement ~ don’t forget that the words you use are powerful ~ choose them wisely.  And as I posted in my final Day #100 photograph,

Remember to keep taking photos!  With your family, your friends and your experiences!  Each picture tells a story that we cherish long after our loved ones pass, friends move on and life changes… but today and everyday I am grateful for every happy moment captured and will continue to capture’.

~ F.P

Life as half cup half full

Her heart was radiant. It shone with hope and excitement for nothing more certain than life itself. She had no greater insight than another; no promise the world will grant her happiness or riches. She merely had possession of the air in her lungs, freedom of life choice and a heart full of optimism. It is with those tools in her kit that she was convinced life would be what it could be – And she decided it would be amazing.

~ F.P

Ten things I miss about being a teenager…

There is something magical about thinking back to a time when life was simple. When we lived a life that allowed endless dreaming and opportunity. I attribute my nostalgia for the past to my status of being the star sign Cancer.

It is not that I don’t appreciate my present but my past holds some gems and an attitude that I cannot fully embrace as an adult. As I am living my final year of my 20’s, a mere 10 years after being a teenager, here are my top ten things I miss about being one…

10. Money:

As a teen, my allowance stretched ridiculously far. Yet money was not important nor did it impact my life’s happiness – it cost nothing to hang out at a friends place or in a park and you hardly took a purse out with you. In the event that I forget my purse today, it would cause a wave of panic that would make me believe my life had stopped!

9. Time:

As a teen, there appeared to be an abundance of it! I was never in a rush to get anywhere, yet still made it to all the places I needed to be – all on foot! Today, even with a car time seems to slip quickly away. Rational understanding knows that I had the same number of hours in the day when I was 17 as when I was 27 – doesn’t feel that way in reality though…

8. Goals:

I had many and I did not appear unfocused or foolish in spreading my seed of thought in so many different life ones. Even the silliest ones (ie. Becoming a trapeze artist a joining a circus) were thought to be creative and I was viewed as putting great thought into life. As adults, goals are almost equivalent to a wishlist you are saving for retirement, once you’re done with your current life. So much of life as an adult is about setting mature and focused goals or bucket lists even…all focused on what to do before you die – a little to morbid for me…

7. Responsibility:

It didn’t take much to appear responsible as a teen. If you got home by curfew, the parent /teacher reports were favourable, your room was kept tidy, you had manners, you helped out when asked and had some life direction, you were considered responsible. As adults, it seems people appear more preoccupied with irresponsibility with a much greater list of responsibility. One perceived irresponsibility out weights 20 responsible things we do. If we leave our job without another, if we are 28 and come home drunk after 2am and spend the whole next day sleeping in; if we take a spontaneous holiday without planning three months in advance. Although in the spirit of honesty, we are secretly envious of those who disregard responsibility and act as their heart desires. I miss not having the weight of responsibility resting upon my shoulders…

6. Friendships:

Our friends required little addition thought – they were an integral part of each day. They were there at school, they were there after school, they were there on weekends. If they were busy on a weekend, we would catch up at school and it didn’t really matter. They knew everything about your world from the person you were crushing on to the class you despised to the things you were into and everything in between – because they were literally beside you as you lived it. You never ran out of things to talk about and hanging out wasn’t scheduled. As adults we ‘catch up’ over planned dinners because life doesn’t allow for the freedom being a teen does.

5. House parties:

There is nothing like a basic house party to make you feel 16 again. Think decorated garages, pizza and chips, music from anything that plays it and lemon ruskis! I spent a great deal of my teens having deep and meaningful conversations, slightly tipsy in the dark in front yards of friends houses.

4. Teen conversations:

As a teen, the world was a very new place. The topics of conversations ranged extensively and it felt like I was learning new things at rapid speeds although concede the information was not always credible nor reliable. We could spend hours talking about anything and everything and nothing was stupid to discuss. We spoke about love, hope, future aspirations, who we were going to be and where we were going to be. We learned how to interact appropriately with friends and equally learned the embarrassment of talking to someone you liked and almost always came away feeling stupid. I miss feeling like there was so much to talk about with the open and naive eyes…

3. Sport:

For clarification, I don’t mean watching – I don’t mean ‘doing‘ – I mean playing! As kids, we rounded up all of the neighbours in the court and played anything and everything. There was footy kicking and downball and foursquare and cricket and basketball and chasey and stuck in the mud. We played until dinner when we were beckoned home, only to run back out to play until we couldn’t see the ball in the dark anymore. There was fun and laughter, there were tantrums and brawls but the next day we came together to do it all again.

2. Stress:

As a teen, stress was so very different, so much so I don’t think I even used the word as a kid. My stress consisted of freaking out if I lost the library book or having a test in class that I had no idea about. Things like being at a party with the boy you liked and not knowing what to wear were important and fundamental moments of stress. As an adult, the stresses are very different. I miss being ‘stressed’ over silly and unimportant life matters…

1. Being Carefree:

This word in itself carries light and happy connotations. It be carefree sounds as though you are floating on clouds or bouncing through life. As teens, we didn’t seem to feel the weight of the world upon us. I miss waking up and knowing the only real mandatory part of my day was going to be getting to school – the rest was in my hands as there wasn’t anything that was reliant upon me. All of life’s chores in our house was absorbed by my parents and I helped. As an adult, carefree feels like a dream because in reality, if I don’t cook – I don’t eat; I don’t wash the clothes – I run out of undies; if I don’t work – I can’t pay my bills and if I don’t set my alarm… well the list is endless.

 

Whilst there is a list of things I miss about the simple times, there are a number of things I don’t miss:
– I don’t miss relying on others for a lift because I didn’t have a drivers licence;
– I don’t miss stressing over exams that were allegedly going to determine my life fate;
– I don’t miss spending hours learning and understanding things to pass these tests and feeling ridiculously stupid when I don’t get it! While I concede I have used many things I thought were useless – I still have not applied my knowledge of long division!
– I don’t miss the rumors and gossip and bitching associated with friend picking and crushes;
– I don’t miss puberty – I don’t miss going through it or the public announcements in class when others realise you are you.

As with all phases of life, I am happy and comfortable to lock away my teen years into the memory bank of time…to appreciate the life lessons that granted me the foundation of life and set me on my path for my twenties. Whilst I didn’t expect to be where I am today, I am appreciative of every moment that got me here.

-FP