Saturday, April 23, 2005

Train Pals -- Introduction


Train Pals Page
Dedicated to those enduring passengers of Odenton

(These pages were done back in the late '90s after I felt I had paid my dues and was allowed to begin commenting on my life. Also, I had just discovered that I had free web space and started to experiment with it. So I thought I would, for nostalgia, post these early contributions to the blogosphere)

WELCOME to the first exciting and interesting feature site that I have decided to host using the meager 5 MB of space that gives to any fool willing to buy from them a year's worth of Internet services.

After observing the full range of human emotion directed at and around the train for ten-odd years, I find it downright amazing that I'm the first to start a MARC commuter web site, "For MARC commuters, by MARC commuters," (If you find that I'm not actually the first, keep it to yourself. OK? Don't burst my bubble.).

TrainPals -- MARC-Etiquette?

The MARC Train
Pals Page
Marc Etiquette

Etiquette? On a MARC train? Should be a pretty thin page, you say. Well, to the casual observer the conduct of passengers on the platform and in the carriages may appear to be thousands upon thousands of completely random acts whereby trains are stuffed with and evacuated of their human hoofage. The observer then begins to marvel at how, on a daily basis, year after year, this activity goes on without bloody carnage, injury or even rumpled clothes and mussed hair. Even a rough analysis would lead to the HourGlass Model wherein the force of gravity feeds millions of grains of sand, one at a time through a tiny hole in exactly one hour. How such precision is derived from completely random activity is still a scientific mystery. That's why the hourglass is used only by Tibetan monks and American private attorneys. But it will ALL be explained here as we take a closer look at the intricate social mechanism I have dubbed "Marc Etiquette."
That's right. There are subtle protocols, manners, states of mind, and attributes of physique and attire that govern the seeming chaotic behavior of MARC passengers in the loading and unloading of the box cars.

Right away Odenton passengers are confronted with a dilemma: a wide platform that runs nearly a quarter of a mile, it is designed to accommodate up to three annulled-trains-worth of passengers.

So, you pick a spot on the platform to await the next train (why this spot? subject for another MARC page). You will soon learn that no matter which spot you pick it will, without fail, mark the exact center of a MARC train carriage. Now, left mid-way between the doors at either end you burn several seconds wondering why there is no middle door before you rapidly conclude that even if there were, the train will, without fail, stop on your spot exactly mid-way
between the middle door and the one at either end of the car (most likely the end whose door is stuck closed).

There you are. Forced to decide which way to go and having no other means or experience as a guide you examine your options. Both entrances are crowded already because, unlike you, the seasoned passengers (having long buried the middle-door dream) have learned to walk one way or the other just near the door as the train slowed in order to be as close as possible to the door when the train stops. Once a crowded door is selected how do you conduct yourself?

Crowded-Door Entry Protocol:

  1. Those closest to the door enter first having proven their superior endurance or neurosis by picking a door and sticking to it. These passengers are also the seasoned pros not a rookie like you and therefore deferring to them shows the respect they deserve.

  2. Late comers to the door should not try to weasel their way in along the side of the train. Despite the anonymous nature of a crowd, everyone knows who got to the platform when and who, therefore, should be upfront.

  3. Be a gentleman! With all the attendant duty and honor. You'll find that everyone respects a gentleman. And ladies, nothing makes the wages of chivalry shine as bright as those paid by a true lady allowing a gentleman to do his duty. So the next time a hot and tired and hungry gentleman stands so that you might sit, please sit. It's a simple thing. Do it for yourself. Do it for the sake of Western civilization. You know chivalry is not dead despite the best efforts of modern women.

    And you military officers! God, if there is anyone I expect to see standing in a crowded train it's every uniformed member of our services' officers corps. Let's see you elevate some of that brass and braid the next time you see a lady standing! My father, a retired officer (now a road warrior where there are no ladies, only jeeps and targets), would be forced to ask for the credentials of you costumed-colonels. But I digress.

Alright, let's sum up Loading Etiquette:

  • Nearer the door first;

  • FoFi - First On the platform, First In the door.

  • Ladies First!
Well-bred MARC passengers don't shed their manners at the door, either. Once in the door, the proper conduct is to proceed within the car whose door you entered. Avoid disrupting the loading process by not entering the door of one car then proceed to cross into vestibule of the adjacent car where passengers are trying to get on as well.
Once within your car, avoid the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous game of aisle "chicken" by finding a seat somewhere in your half of the car. Walking the full length of one or more cars is acceptable only if you are one of the last to make it on. In this case, after running like mad, the MARC carriage is an intensive care ward and you are in a semi-ambulatory state. Half way up the ramp to the platform your quadriceps shut down after exhausting the feeble supply
of oxygen your atrophied cardio-pulmonary system can manage. Luckily for you a body in motion tends to stay in motion even when cut off at the knees. And the low-impact poured-concrete platform offers just the right amount of "outside force" to end your tortured journey from the far corner of the Odenton Parking Lot and Open-Air Chop Shop.

Traffic usually flows from the front of the train to the rear. Again, be a polite Train Pal and find a seat quickly in your half of the car and facilitate the smooth flow of passengers in this direction. If you feel that your seat is just not in the near half of the car, you are permitted to walk through the vestibule (towards the rear of the train) into the next car to find just the right seat.