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Ashley Kolpak photo

This post should really be titled, Oy!Suburbia. For work each and every day, I commute out to the north suburbs of this fair city. This is not my first go at the suburban-city shuffle. These days, I brave the downtown-Northbrook route, but just out of college, I journeyed from Buffalo Grove to The Loop for nearly a year. As irony would have it, I currently live a few blocks away from my inaugural post-college job. It’s not terribly ironic, considering my choice to live in the bustling Loop district had everything to do with my crippling fear of driving from the city to the burbs; I would much rather take the train. So Loop living it is, and I couldn’t be happier. The bright lights of State Street accompanied with a 15 minute walk to the Metra, the gilded gateway to suburban life makes it a location, in my eyes, that simply can’t be beat.

An hour-or-so long Metra commute, I’ve come to learn, is a fascinating thing. If you ask any coworker (or anyone who’s known me for more than a few days), they know I am a terribly chatty person. Full of opinions and enthusiasm, always piping up with something, that’s me. Not soon my daily commute. I see the same people every day, the same people see each other every day. And with the scant exceptions, no one speaks a word. I get it, at the wee hours of the morning, there’s not much reason to gab on and on. In the light of seeing a cast of characters whose only lines I have invented in my head, I present my commuting adventures. I’m sure more than a few of you can relate. Here’s to all of us train commuters out there, riding in silence, happily so most of the time. But don’t you wonder sometimes, just what’s going on with that neighbor of yours in the brown coat with the fur on the hood? 

My Imaginary Train Boyfriend (MITB)— The most important one on the list, clearly. I noticed him the first day of my Metra commute. Standard outfit: brown cords, cool blue Nike shoes, a t-shirt or sweater in rotating shades of blue. I’m hard pressed to remember what one of my coworkers wears from one day to the next, but I will most certainly remember when MITB wears the striped sweater with alternating blue hues. Funny how that works.

Smiley Guy— In high school, I distinctly remember this quote from many a girl’s AOL Profile (yeah, I went there): “Don’t frown, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile”. Now, I’m not falling in love with Smiley Guy, but I definitely notice him and his infectious little energy. His bright countenance greets his fellow coworkers each day, a gaggle of guys who commute as well. SG, I salute you. It’s difficult to be cheery at 7 am.

The Sneezer— He looks nice enough. But please, cover your mouth, cover your nose, do something when you sneeze. Every commute/commuter has one. Mine tends to sit behind me.

“We Work in the Same Building…Should We Be Friendly? Nah, Let’s Not”— As these descriptions get longer, the less attached I feel to these people. A woman works in my building. We walk down to go catch the train together sometimes. Why is this of note? It just boggles my mind. In looking at the train commute through a sociological standpoint, it tends to isolate normally outgoing people (I’m referring to myself. I can’t speak for the others). But we all lead our lives; we all go to work each and every day. We do what we need to do.

Other commuters who make up the fabric of my every day:

The Veteran. I know because his hat tells me so.
The last one on the bus (have I mentioned that I take a train to a bus? That’s what I do). She doesn’t take a seat when offered. I wonder why.
Very rarely, one of my coworkers. We’re chatty. I hope people appreciate my effervescent (read: loud) personality when we prattle on about the day’s events.
The Imaginary Train Boyfriend, If He Seemed Nicer. Standards are important. 

So if you happen to head north and west one of these days on the Metra, don’t be shy, stop by and say hi! 

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