Since I’ve started grad school, I’m taking a late train home two nights a week. These trains are a completely different experience than the usual 5:17 express train. Depending on whether I go out with classmates for a drink (which happens the occasional Thursday) or go straight to the train translates to a completely different cast of characters.
Earlier Late Train
Mostly work- and class- weary riders: Overall, this train is pretty quiet, with many people coming from grad classes. These are mostly professionals who look tired. They tend to either zone out with ear phones or frantically work on their laptops, catching up on either work or school, a glazed look on their face.
Drunk middle-aged dude: More common on Thursday nights, there’s inevitably one overly chatty, drunk middle aged guy in a leather jacket, trying to act 15 years younger than he actually is. He chats up the conductors and tries to flirt with some of the women. He tends to slur his words. Often he makes a quick call to a wife, asking her to come pick him up from the station.
Giggling Teenage Girls: I don’t know how high school age girls always manage to be on this train, but maybe they’re actually college freshman. Regardless, there tends to be a group of 5-8 giggling, shrieking girls, taking pictures of each other, texting each other, and excited that they just spent the day in the big city. (These are likely the same people who walk five abreast down the sidewalk at rush hour.) Try to avoid the car they’re sitting in.
Loud Talker: Every train has at least one person who shouts their end of a long, inane, deeply personal cell phone conversation. This is more often a woman, but men are guilty, too. When they start rattling off credit card numbers, I wonder who else is listening.
McDonald’s Eaters: After 7 PM, the closest thing to food at Union Station is McDonald’s. (Unless it’s closed, which has happened twice recently, leaving your late night dining options Mrs. Fields cookies or beer.) I think I’ve finally figured out when to eat what so I’m not ravenous as I hit the train, but inevitably, there’s at least one person who boards with a bag of fresh, hot McDonald’s fries.
The later train has all of the above groups, but they tend to be rowdier. There are more drunks and gigglers, and fewer students and office workers. During baseball season, there are also hoards of very drunk sports fans. There’s also usually at least one very annoyed single mom with a gaggle of young children who are cranky at the late hour. She usually either lacks patience for them and yells at them to sit still and shut up, or she ignores them entirely while she talks on the phone.
The later train is worse in many ways because it only has two cars open (versus three on the earlier late train), so there’s less room to hide.
What other characters have you seen on the late night trains?