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Tag: Metro North

Helpful Tips for the Return to your Suburban Train Commute

If you’ve been wondering what it’s going to be like to commute again, here’s what I’ve recently experienced when I resumed my train ride to New York City.

I’ve been working from home for the better part of the past eighteen months. Though it’s surprising how much one is able to accomplish with remote video production technologies, the best video creation moments are often achieved through face-to-face interactions.

Yes, I know we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. But I’m vaccinated, and you can’t really stay in the bubble of your home forever. So, it was inevitable that the time would come for me to resume my train commute from Connecticut. Last week, I returned to my daily treks to New York City on Metro North.

If you’re on the cusp of your own return to the office and are about to restart your daily commute, you may need a few days to get back into the swing of things. That first week can feel like a marathon.

Here are some notes from my own experience.

Don’t Stray from your Pre-Commute Schedule
It’s an obvious point, but you can no longer simply roll out of bed and switch on your computer to begin your work day. You need to give yourself enough time to get presentable and out the door. (Zoom sweatpants don’t usually work in public settings.)

And you’ve got to move quickly. As I’ve said to my eleven-year-old son, the train doesn’t wait for you. You’ve got to be there when it arrives.

Yes, I made it to my train platform in time, but those last few minutes were uncomfortably tight. (On one day, I was running so late that I was forced to leave behind my beautiful bowl of oatmeal mixed with apples, raisins and banana.)

Say Goodbye to your Refrigerator
Speaking of food, if you’ve grown accustomed to your particular morning and afternoon snacks, you’ve now got to pack them. Sure, there’s plenty of food available in New York City, but it can be inconvenient to have to go out and hunt for it, especially when you’re hungry.

Unfortunately, your own fridge isn’t around the corner anymore.

Enjoy the Empty Train Ride
Happily, my usually packed parking lot had plenty of open spots for my car. And the Metro North trains I took were all relatively empty. Middle seats remained unoccupied, and nobody had to stand. Social distancing was easy.

And yes, everyone behaved and wore a mask.

Prepare for More Steps in your Day
Like me, you’ll probably see this as a real benefit. (Sitting in your home office can quickly generate a sedentary existence.)

While more walking is great, you may unexpectedly find yourself a little tired at the end of those first days. (I did.)

It’s simply a change of pace, and you’ve got to get used to it again.

Get More Sleep
Your commute will, of course, cut into your former non-travel free time. You may feel the urge to say up later at night to find that additional hour for ‘me time.’ But I think stealing from sleep is an unsustainable solution. It may seem counterintuitive, but if anything, you’re going to need a little more sleep for a while. That should help your body and mind accommodate your new schedule.

I baked a little more sleep into my rotation and found it really helpful in handling my next day.

Time to Stream!
Commuting on a Metro North train is a relatively comfortable experience. And it’s simple to pull out your smartphone or laptop and pretend that you’ve never left your home office. Or if you want to catch up on your Netflix fix, a train commute can be a perfect time for that.

Yay!

Expect an Adjustment
The reality is the train commute is mostly the same as before the pandemic, except that there aren’t as many people (at least not yet).

The real difference is simply having to get used to it again. It can take a few days.

As you get back to your own future, I recommend that you plan for this adjustment period.

Good luck and be safe!

Five Ways to Enjoy Your Metro North Commute to New York City

If this is a snapshot of your world every weekday morning, you may need a few tips to help you on your commute. Good news…

How hard is the commute into New York City on Metro North? Well, the train experience is not exactly a walk in the park. But there are ways to ‘smooth out’ the trip. If you’re a novice suburban commuter trying to make it to Grand Central Terminal every day, I’ve got five tips that should improve your trek.

#1
Never Buy Your Ticket on the Train
This is rookie-mistake stuff. The conductors charge a significant surcharge to make on-board ticketing especially painful. So plan ahead and keep more money in your pocket! And now with the MTA eTix app for smartphones, you can always buy yourself an e-ticket before the conductor shows up.

#2
Get Used to the Center Seat
If you’re traveling during rush hour, usually only a few seats will be left when you show up. And I guarantee they will be center seats. There is absolutely nothing wrong with politely asking the person sitting in the aisle seat to let you in. Otherwise, you’ll be standing for the entire trip, and how fun is that? I know some may say their personal-space requirements prevent them from squeezing into the center seat. If you’re going to be a regular rush-hour commuter, I’d recommend you try reducing the size of your personal-space bubble. After a while, you’ll find it isn’t as uncomfortable as you’d think.

#3
Expect Weak Cellular Spots Along the Way
Once upon a time, you’d see an ocean of open newspapers during the morning commute. No more. Now, everyone is on a digital device, many of them streaming movies and TV shows. If you don’t have work to do, streaming your favorite content is a great way to spend your time on Metro North. The only challenge you’ll face is the reality that the cellular signal is not evenly strong along the way. (There are multiple 1-bar pockets.) So, you’ll need to rely on buffering to keep your show playing smoothly. That means you shouldn’t randomly jump in and out of watching your content. Once you begin, keep going! If you happen to receive a non-critical text while streaming the last episode of “Stranger Things” on Netflix, I highly recommend that you wait to respond until after that end-credits scene is over.

#4
Admire the Great Work the Conductors Do
I’ve watched a variety of Metro North conductors in action across many years. Without exception, each one has brought professionalism and a friendly attitude with every commuter interaction. That doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes tough when they need to be if a commuter gets a little out of line. It’s clear that the conductors are always in charge. That psychological hierarchy maintains the necessary calm for any public transportation commute.

#5
Buy the Best Muffin at Grand Central Terminal
Once you arrive at Grand Central Terminal, I say it’s time to reward yourself! The best breakfast muffin you’ll find is the ‘apple cranberry walnut muffin’ at Magnolia Bakery on the plaza level. It’s simply amazing.

The bakers seem to only cook up one batch of these muffins on any given morning… so you’ve got to show up early to get one. Any time after 9am is a gamble.

Bonus Tip: Maintain a Flexible Mindset
So, after many years as a ‘train warrior,’ I’m not currently commuting into New York City. (Instead, I brave the unpredictable parking lot known as I-95 to Stamford, CT.)
But as much as everyone I know loves to complain about I-95, it’s not really half bad if you expect the hideous traffic and always have a good podcast to listen to while driving.
(I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.”)

I also suggest that you apply the same flexible attitude towards commuting on Metro North to New York City on any given day. Combined with my commuting tips, you could even ‘enjoy’ your train experience!

Good luck!

How to Annoy 100 Train Commuters with Your iPhone

If you think you’re always in your own private bubble while streaming TV shows on the morning train, you might be in for a rude awakening when you invoke a commuter uprising… against you.

If you think you’re always in your own private bubble while streaming TV shows on the morning train, you might be in for a rude awakening when you invoke a commuter uprising… against you.

Warning: Never stream “The Blacklist” on Netflix while riding the train during your morning commute… Not without first checking in with Apple.

Let me explain my cautionary tale…

A few weeks back, I was doing exactly that on my Metro North train ride to New York City. Remember, I’m a Road Warrior, at least I pretend to be while riding the train.

So I had my trusty iPhone 6 Plus tuned into season 2 of “The Blacklist.”
My Apple EarPods were firmly in place…

If you’re a fan of the James Spader TV spy series, you know it’s a pretty noisy show. Lots of loud explosions as our heroes try to capture the bad guy…

Major Audio Malfunction
In the middle of watching a tussle with the evil Luther Braxton, played by the great Ron Perlman, my seatmate tapped me on my shoulder. I paused the stream, extracted my left Apple EarPod, and turned to face this stranger.

“I can hear your show.”

“What?”

“Your TV show is playing too loud.”

I looked down at my iPhone.

“How is that possible? I’m wearing earphones.”

“I can still hear it.” It’s really loud.”

I paused in ongoing disbelief.

Then, the commuter on the other side of my offended seatmate leaned forward and joined the conversation.

“Yes, I think the entire car can hear it. It’s blaring! Everyone can hear it. Really!!”

She nodded.

He nodded.

I began to nod… in disbelief.
I had become ‘that guy.’ How embarrassing…

So of course I apologized and promised to lower the audio level, which I did. But several times during the rest of my commute, I pulled out one or both of the EarPods to listen for any escaping audio.

I heard nothing. My earphones weren’t projecting anything, contrary to crowd consensus.

Confused as to where the leak was coming from, I cranked the level back to ‘eleven.’

Nada.

Hmmm… Then I realized for the sound level to be that offensive, the EarPods couldn’t possibly have been the culprit. Somehow, the iPhone’s onboard speaker must have been activated.

Then, it hit me… ‘Lint-gate!’

Pocket Lint is Evil
A few weeks back, I realized the exposed holes in the bottom my iPhone were slowly being filled up by pocket lint through normal wear and tear.

The tell was I couldn’t get a secure lightning connection to charge my iPhone anymore. That’s when I realized I had the lint problem. So I took matters into my own hands, grabbed a pin and started scooping out pocket lint from both the lightning port and the earphone jack.

Problem solved…. Or so I thought.

I assume you know the phrase, “Don’t try this at home.”

Clearly, I hadn’t extracted enough of the lint from the audio jack and the 3.5mm plug was being blocked from making a secure fit. And as a result, the iPhone’s speaker took over… even though my earphones were still operating.

While that scenario suggested the possibility of a technical glitch I couldn’t confirm, I figured where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Then I remembered a friend had mentioned after reading my original pocket lint post that the same problem had happened to him. His solution was to take his iPhone to the Apple Store. The Genius he spoke with used a tiny ‘vacuum-cleaner-like’ tool to do the fix.

Huh.

iPhone to Surgery… Stat!
So when my train arrived at Grand Central Terminal, I hoofed it to the Apple Store, which was conveniently located only a few steps away from Track 18.

I checked in… told my sad tale of how “The Blacklist” had disrupted an entire train car filled with annoyed commuters… and I was quickly scheduled to see an Apple Genius.

When my Genius arrived, I repeated my story, handed over my iPhone, and then she rushed it away to the back room.

Five minutes later, she reappeared and confirmed that my iPhone had still been clogged with plenty of pocket lint.

But no more.

She handed back my iPhone with a big smile.
(No charge)

I asked if there was a better way to take care of this nuisance at home. She suggested using a paper clip instead of a pin, because the larger circumference of the point could grab more lint.

But really… I knew my solution moving forward.

Cleared for Duty
Can you think of any personal tech you regularly rely on more than your smartphone?

Exactly.

I say everyone should schedule an annual ‘De-linting’ iPhone Check Up with the Apple Store.

Your fellow train commuters will thank you, and you won’t end up on anyone’s Blacklist!

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