Category Archives: Work & Commute

Master

I usually rather relish the challenge of being really busy.

The last month has been incredible, though, and pushed me to the brink. But finally, after years of being a “Jill of many trades,” I’m a Master of one.

My final Finals Week included a giant presentation, a 16-page paper, a car accident and a summer cold, which lead directly into NeighborWorks, a graduation pub crawl, my baby sister’s wedding featuring scores of relatives…add in some city council meetings, more pawn shop drama, a big dash of disappointment, an exploding bike tire… oh, and some gigantic (but very promising) changes at work.

But it all came to a head Friday when I rose early and drove the unfamiliar path to Evanston. I parked along the beach, met up with my friend Crystal to claim my cap and gown, and set off for graduation. We rode the Purple Line, which seemed fitting, and navigated the unfamiliar campus, finding the smattering of other classmates who had opted to join the big convocation ceremony in Ryan Field.

It was hot, with unrelenting sunshine. We wilted in our purple polyester and tried valiantly to avoid mortarboard tanlines. But we listened, rapt, as Very Serious People gave Very Serious Speeches, spiked with just enough levity and reality. We watched the creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney, receive an honorary degree. Paul Farmer, the genius behind Partners in Health, spoke about “failures of imagination” and their ability to stifle change and progress. He urged us to forge partnerships and collaborate, and to stay creative and curious. (Seriously, read Mountains Beyond Mountains. Thanks for the tip, Amber. I’ll never be quite the same.)

But as I gazed around Ryan Field – I hadn’t been inside since Marching Band Day in high school – I got chills, despite the heat. I had told my parents not to come to the Friday ceremony, as it was large and sprawling and impersonal. The degrees were conferred en masse, by school, and my fellow Medill students rose in a single swoop, our gowns sticking to our sweaty legs while we beamed for the Jumbotron.

Afterwards, four of us peeled off our gowns and fled campus for a pub where we devoured burgers and beer and plenty of water to try to rehydrate.

Friday night, my house was attacked by the SWAN bandits, who festooned my driveway and steps with streamers and balloons and congratulatory signs that made me grin.

And then… Saturday. Saturday was our small, intimate Medill convocation. My parents picked me up and we drove, again, to Evanston. I pretended to know the campus as we took a flurry of pictures as storms threatened.

The ceremony was perfect, with just 20 students and nearly as many faculty. We laughed and teared up during our classmate’s speech as he traced our journey, replete with the frustrations, challenges and triumphs that bonded us.

Afterwards, new Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications diplomas in hand, we talked and hugged, taking pictures in every possible combination, introducing families to friends. But we were all lingering, reluctant to leave, knowing that this was the end of something magical and big. We’ll stay in touch, of course, but I doubt we’ll ever again all be in the same place at the same time.

Every day, thinking through problems at work or even just consuming media, I’ll remember what I’ve learned and absorbed. And I’ll especially remember those who shared the journey.

Medill Part Time IMC Class of 2012

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Stream of Consciousness: The Kennedy

Spring is always a whirlwind. But the last few weeks have been exceptionally whirly. I’m in the last quarter of my Master’s program. (I hand in my final paper in a mere 20 days – not that I’m counting.) Spring fever and senioritis are taunting me. The yard needs work – especially since my neighbors keep beating me in the mower wars. It’s Preservation Month here in Elgin, replete with too many activities. I work full time. And I try – usually somewhat successfully – to balance it all with a social life.

Hence, my thoughts have been a bit disjointed, to say the least. I have scraps of ideas for blog posts, but no time or concentration to actually finish them.

While driving to class two weeks ago, I had yet another idea – I should just jot down all the random thoughts that spring to mind while stuck in traffic. I grabbed a couple of gas receipts from the console and started taking notes.

I hate driving into Chicago when there’s traffic. I’ve always been a train girl and prefer to use commuting time to read or write or just think. But my Thursday class is at an odd time and on the main downtown Northwestern campus near Water Tower. If I took the train, I’d get home at midnight. By driving, I’m usually home by 10:30. This is (mostly) worth the 90-120 minute drive into the city on Thursday afternoons. I make a big mug of tea, turn on the radio, and get comfortable. So here’s a sampling of what flitted through my head (and portions of the soundtrack) for 41 miles and 105 minutes between Elgin and Chicago.

I hate the stop lights along State Street in downtown Elgin. Can’t we synchronize them?

Ugh. Radio traffic people are saying the Kennedy between O’Hare and downtown is 50 minutes. Can’t wait to see how long it takes by the time I get there. No more talk radio for me.

Whoa. Is that a tank? Like a tank-tank? WTF?

Man, this tea is hot. Scalding. I really need to remember to let it cool before I put the lid on.

I’m kind of hungry.

Blunderbuss – Jack White’s new solo album just came out. I keep hearing it’s great, and the first single isn’t bad. I should download it.

I always wonder about the people whose houses back up to 90. Especially at night.

Sometimes I wish Elgin was closer to Chicago. But then it might be Schaumburg, and that wouldn’t be good. At all. Schaumburg is what’s wrong with suburbia.

REM – What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

That little A4 is cute.

Planes – launching into the wild blue yonder. Where are they going? I always try to read the insignia and figure out the airline, and extrapolate from there. And then I make up stories about their journeys. Such a travel nerd.

Tom Petty – American Girl

Cook County gas prices – suckers.

Those almonds are supposed to be for after class.

Tea finally cooled enough to drink. But apparently I didn’t rinse the  travel mug lid out well enough – quite the coffee influence. Yech.

The Grand Victoria’s billboards are very blah. No wonder they’re losing market share. I wonder if they do their marketing in-house.

Stone Poneys – Different Drum. I never knew who sang that song. Huh.

That little package of almonds didn’t have many nuts.

Hey look! The gray A4 again!

MGMT – Time to Pretend – “Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?” Reverse commute, my ass.

Does anyone else flip off the IPASS sensors? At least the “Rod Blagojevich, Governor” signs are gone. I hope he’s enjoying prison.

Why do I only ever see Porsches on the expressway and never on surface streets? Other than the one that parks at the National Street train station.

The United electronic billboard always lists “serving 370 destinations.” I wonder how many I’ve been to. And how many more I’ll get to. Too much world, too little free time.

Grouplove – Tongue Tied

I really need a new pair of glasses. But maybe I can just repurpose my old, post-college pair. They’re suspiciously similar to the hipster Warby Parker ones everyone’s getting now. Maybe I was just 8 years ahead of the curve.

I’ve never seen the “Special Alert When Flashing” traffic light actually flash. I wonder what merits that. And whose job it is to flip a switch. Are there criteria? Who monitors them?

Semisonic – Closing Time – oh, high school

It was so dreary when I left the house, and now there’s full sunshine. Glad I have the old sunglasses in the car, even if they are rose-tinted. They rather fit my Pollyanna side.

The Taco Bell Dorito thing looks so gross. Like stomach-turning gross. But man, am I hungry.

Why do Mini Cooper drivers always look vaguely British?

Touhy – why is it pronounced “too-ee”?

Ravinia tickets went on sale today. I wonder if there’s anything worth attending. I hope Elgin’s budget cuts don’t hit the summer outdoor concerts too hard. When’s the first one?

The Killers – Spaceman

Korea Town… I’ll bet there’s good Korean BBQ somewhere in Korea Town. There’s supposedly a pretty good place in Schaumburg, too. I should investigate.

Central Avenue? Central to what?

Naked and Famous – Punching in a Dream

What’s the first impression people have of Chicago? If they’re coming from O’Hare and get stuck in this traffic…

Brilliant, if a bit mean.

Damn you, Blue Line. And you too, Metra. Mockers.

Though the Montana ad campaign is smart. Get people thinking about wide open spaces during their smelly urban commute, standing in the middle of the expressway. I’ve heard Montana is kind of magical in that sense.

Radiohead – Karma Police

Hello again, little gray A4.

Lalalalalalalala

When traffic finally starts to free up a bit – just past where 90/94 merge – I feel like we drivers get greedy with the sudden movement and try to do too much, too fast. Which actually forces us to slow down again. If only we could just agree: “Yes, it will suck to go 20 miles/hour for the last 10 miles of the commute, but it will be a nice, steady speed,  with none of this braking nonsense.”

I wonder if the other group members in my class actually did the reading for tonight. It’s kind of hard to have group discussions when they don’t. Wish I was in a better group. I’m 7 years older than most of them.

Offspring – Why Don’t You Get a Job

The express lanes are never in my favor.

Ohio feeder ramp, I love you and your blissful lack of traffic. Even if it feels like going through the Disney-fied part of downtown. How long has it been since DisneyQuest, or whatever it was called, closed? Still, tourists, ye gads.

Soundgarden – Burden in My Hand

Michigan Avenue! Almost there! I can tolerate these stoplights. But the cabbies are fearless. Please don’t hit me.

I love how the city nearly falls into the Lake. I loved living so close to the lakefront, even on those awful bitter blustery January days, waiting for the 146 bus. It just stretches into infinity, beyond the horizon, especially on those crystalline summer days. Summer. Soon.

Parking garages still make me nervous, but I’m getting better. And Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” is actually kind of perfect for subterranean driving…

And…park. Thank goodness. Now to find dinner.

A Woman’s Place

Late last night, I flipped the final virtual pages of Sinclair Lewis’ The Job: An American Novel (free for Kindle!).

I love books that fit the genre: set in the early 20th century, starring young women who find strength in fending for themselves and making it in the big, bad city. (See also: Theodore Dreiser.)

The Job spanned a decade starting in 1905, when Una Golden and her mother moved to New York City from a small Pennsylvania town. Una’s father had just passed away, and after the dust settled, the mother and daughter decided that a big city like New York held more opportunity for a young woman to earn a living (and support her mother).

Such “opportunities” were vastly different than what women expect today. After a quick stint at secretarial school, Una started her career by taking dictation, eventually running small offices. Throughout, her fellow secretaries and stenographers married and left their jobs. The message – and reality – were clear: women had to choose between work or family. Women tended to work only when they had to support themselves in the absence of a father or husband. Una struggled to reconcile her desire for a family with her career aspirations.

As I read, many of the office dynamics were familiar, with hierarchies and break time confidences. But I marveled at just how far we’ve come in a century.

My own company, IBM, recently named a new CEO. As of January 1, Ginni Rometty was named President and CEO – IBM’s ninth CEO in a century.

Ginni Rometty is IBM's new CEO and president

When the news was announced in October, the gender-focused headlines bothered me. Why should it matter that she’s a woman? That our best and brightest, someone who worked her way up through IBM’s ranks since 1981, happens to be a woman? We should applaud the best person getting the job, regardless of gender.

But I know that it is a big deal. As long as Fortune and Forbes keep putting out lists of “Most Influential Women” and we have stand-alone “Women in Technology” receptions at conferences, the divide will persist. (Can you imagine if they had a “Men in Technology” night at a software conference?)

I grew up truly believing I could be anything I wanted to be. It never occurred to me that being a girl limited my career choices. I could be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or even an astronaut, as long as I worked hard. (Funny, “social media strategist” never popped to mind as a career option back in the 80s or 90s.)

But not terribly long ago, that wasn’t really the case. When my mom applied for teaching jobs in the 1970s, she had to include a headshot and answer questions about her marital status and whether she intended to have children.

It’s certainly changed in the century since Una Golden arrived in New York. Even so, I look forward to the day when gender isn’t highlighted as something novel during such announcements.

We’re getting there. Our outgoing CEO, Sam Palmisano, reiterated the point: “Ginni got it because she deserved it. It’s got zero to do with progressive social policies.”

Congratulations, Ginni, and thanks for helping perpetuate the reality that a woman’s place can be in the board room.

The New York Times has an interesting look at women in technology, and specifically, women in IBM. 

Farewell, Initiate

The sign that used to greet visitors, now in a closet.

My old office closed its doors today.

Initiate Systems, founded in 1995 as Madison Information Technologies, officially ceased to exist last year when it was acquired by IBM.

I joined in 2005, asking my dad if this “customer data integration” thing had any potential. Since then, the Master Data Management market – the successor of that early CDI software – has exploded.

When I joined Initiate, I was one of about 90 employees. I sat in a cube between the offices of our CEO and CFO, and learned a lot just listening to their hallway conversations. We were most definitely a startup, with putting greens in the hallways, a foosball table in a conference room and a fridge full of free soda. We worked really hard, but we played hard, too, with extravagant All Company Meetings, Christmas parties, and more. Working with such a bright crew made everyone work harder, because we were building something better, competing against more established companies. We celebrated analyst mentions and customer wins.

Being a startup, we grew very fast, expanding office space to two additional floors. My cube moved four times, but I was always near good coworkers, occasionally within Nerf firing distance. By the time we were acquired, we were up to about 350 employees and multiple offices, but Chicago was our headquarters.

In the 18 months since acquisition, a lot has changed. Several colleagues have left for new adventures. There has been a push to work at home – which I have embraced, and enjoyed. I’ve still gone into our Madison Street office once or twice a week, ostensibly because it makes evening classes easier, but really, it’s been nice to touch base with with colleagues who have become friends. Working at home is nice, but it can get lonely. You get more done because people can’t stop by and chat, but you miss those hallway conversations.

Working for a giant company – 400,000+ employees – is cool. I just returned from our annual Information on Demand conference in Las Vegas, and marveled at how people are using our software to solve very real problems, with a huge impact. We built Watson, the Jeopardy-winning computer, that has huge potential. The IBM brand itself has cachet, and it’s nice to not have to explain who I work for.

Officially, our group is moving to a new office that’s only a block away. It’s nice enough space, with “Innovation” in its name, and it’s a block closer to the train. But I didn’t request a permanent home there, knowing that realistically, I don’t go in often enough to merit a cube of my own. I’m fine with that. I know I’ll go in periodically and see my old colleagues and maybe even meet some new ones.

But it won’t quite be the same. We worked together to build a brand that is now gone, absorbed into something bigger. I was 23 when I started working there, and I marvel at how much my life has changed, how much I’ve learned, who I’ve become. Back then, I was living in a one bedroom apartment in Wrigleyville, commuting in heels on the Brown Line, still dating my college boyfriend. I had never heard of IMC, swore I’d never work for a giant company, and couldn’t imagine living in the suburbs again.

The "Initifish" logo on a cake for our first day as IBMers, April 2010

They say you spend more of your life at work, among coworkers, than you do at home with family. I feel so very fortunate to have been part of Initiate Systems and its legacy.

So thank you, Initiate, for everything.

Who Still Uses the Yellow Pages?

A few weeks ago, I saw something glistening in the snowdrift on my driveway. (Ok, maybe more than a few weeks ago. I’m behind.) By the glow of the porchlight, I saw a blue bag. I pulled, and discovered a Yellow Pages. Argh. At least this year I didn’t get two, I thought, since that has been the case every year I’ve lived here.

It was bitterly cold, so rather than trying to break the ice on the recycle bin to dump it directly, I carried the bag into the house, set it on the mat by my dripping boots, and forgot about it until morning. As I was straightening up the next morning, I looked and realized that the bag held two copies: a full size white/yellow pages combo and a smaller “fun sized” version that appears to just have some selected (higher priced?) Yellow Pages ads. Perhaps they think I’ll use the small one as a desk reference instead of a doorstop?

But the fun didn’t end there. Mere minutes later, I went to retrieve my newspapers from the end of the driveway/snowbank/neighbors’ yard. (I am consistently amazed that three papers, delivered by the same person at the same time, can end up so widely dispersed.) As I turned and walked back to the house in daylight, I saw another blue bag sitting on my front steps.

So apparently the legacy of this house being a two-unit continues? And they chose to leave one on the driveway and one on the steps? They also spammed the vacant houses on the block – I wonder how long their editions will sit before they disintegrate under the spring rain.

A recent HubSpot cartoon captured this nicely.

The whole yellow pages concept has outlived its lifespan. When was the last time you consulted the physical book when you need a number? I use Google, often from my phone, when I need to find a restaurant or business. Plus, I can read reviews rather than relying merely on a company’s own words. If I need a plumber or other contractor, I post something on Facebook and usually get a half dozen solid recommendations in a couple hours, which is far better than randomly picking someone out of the yellow pages.

And yet companies still pay for yellow pages ads. But who are they targeting? Scott Stratten of UnMarketing wrote a fantastic post about the phenomenon, examining the case that people use to justify the directories’ continued existence: “They work in some markets! People still use them! Like old folks, shut-ins and people who are still locked into AOL contracts!”

What do you think? Do you still see a use for the yellow pages? If you’re in marketing, is it part of your mix? As a consumer, when was the last time you cracked open the pages – or did it even make it indoors?

There are opt-out options, which I’ve now completed. Fingers crossed I don’t get more.

Hat tip to HubSpot for the spot-on cartoon

Scraps of the Day

What do you do with the scraps of your day?

How do you make the most of your cookie dough scraps of time?

As I write, I’m in that weird hour between when work “ends” and class begins. In reality, it’s about 45 minutes, by the time I factor in walking to class and getting settled before the Regression Analysis talking starts. (Shudder.)

Later this evening, I’ll have 40 minutes before my train departure. Again, it’s not really enough time to “do” anything of any consequence. And with no place to sit at Union Station, I can’t open up the laptop and write or work. It’s precarious in-between time. I usually end up chatting with a classmate, which is great, but I’d rather be home – and in bed – 40 minutes earlier.

At work, the worst days are those with several 30 minute gaps between five or six meetings. Those 30 minute blocks aren’t enough time to really accomplish any project or task that requires attention, especially after you spend a couple minutes reading the emails that came in during your meeting and prepping for the next meeting. What’s left? 20 minutes?

The other night, I was thinking that time isn’t like cookie dough. You can’t combine the scraps, roll them out and end up with tasty sugar cookies.

But maybe time is like chocolate chip cookie dough. The little scraps can be eaten raw, or blended into ice cream.

So I spend my scraps reading blogs or tweets, by reading the newspaper, or making lists, all the while feeling like I’m just killing time. And given how precious time is, that frustrates me.

Am I missing something? What strategies do you have for making the most of those scraps of time?

Working at Home: Avoiding the Office Cuisinart

Since I started school, I’ve been working from home a lot – usually three days a week.

My new parent company has really encouraged working from home, so it’s a relatively serendipitous turn of events, especially after getting home at 11 PM on class nights. Not having to leave again at 6:45 the next morning means I avoid the stress of ensuring breakfast and lunch are ready to go, figuring out my clothes, repacking my bag, etc. Plus, I can sleep in a bit. And, in theory, I can work out with that extra 3 hours of my day I’m saving.

When I first started this routine, I was worried I’d become too much of a hermit. Or worse, I would epitomize the worst of The Oatmeal’s Working At Home warning.

In reality, though, I’m busy enough that it’s not really a concern. Instead, I’m coming to love my work at home days as a way to help balance work with the rest of my life. You know, like doing laundry. Plus, my house is QUIET. Often, in the afternoons as I hit my stride and am cranking through my to-do list, the only sounds in my cozy home office are my fingers flying over the (ergonomically incorrect) keyboard and the snoring of the cat. Compare this to the often-raucous cubeville with bad lighting and plentiful distractions.

And I don’t need a key to use the bathroom.

I can sneak in a run at lunch or mid-afternoon when I need a break. In a few weeks, I’ll pull out the patio furniture and eat lunch outside, in the sunshine – far better than the terrible fluorescent lights and climate control of the office. I take conference calls while balancing on a wobble board.

In reality, I think I’m working more the days I’m at home. There aren’t the distractions of the office – no passing-by-the-desk hello and chat, no experiments to see if we can build a plumb bob to represent the building’s sway in the wind – and there’s no rush to bolt out the door right at five to catch the last express train bound for the hinterlands, so I can reach a more natural stopping point.

And the meals? For an evolving cook, working at home is divine. It’s nice having the time to sautee spinach, dice some peppers, and crumble feta into my morning eggs. I can easily throw together a marinade at 3 PM so dinner is ready to cook at 5:30, and I’ve ended the frantic just-got-home-starving-starving-FOOD-NOW panic.

The other day, I saw a Ted Talk from Jason Fried that nailed my Work at Home rationale:

He’s absolutely right about the office being like a Cuisinart, shredding your day into “work moments” where you can’t really accomplish thing. After all, you can’t get things done in the annoying 15 minute breaks between meetings. Fried says that work is like sleep: useless in short, choppy blocks.

But you know what’s even better than working at home?

Having the day off. I’m heading out to play.

How Social Media is Changing Everything

Many of you know I work in social media. Yes, I really do “tweet for a living,” though it’s so much more than that. Social media has huge promise, and I’m constantly testing new things, attending conferences and webinars, reading blogs and trying to learn as much as I can.

All that is well and good. But when it finally comes together, and you can see the implications of social media for our lives, I get chills.

Two weeks ago, after leaving a couple days of unplugged bliss in Florida, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum: HIMSS11, a tradeshow with 30,000+ attendees that serves as the annual meeting for the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society.

There, for the first time in my social media “career,” I saw how all the pieces can come together in tweetups, videos and QR codes. Read more over at Mastering Data Management.

Have you had an “aha” moment about your job?

Hall Passes for Grown-Ups

Remember hall passes from high school? The bearer was entitled to a few fleeting moments of freedom during class time, usually to use the restroom or retrieve something from a far-away locker. Some teachers had simple slips of paper – ostensible golden tickets – but others tried to make some point by scrawling “HALL PASS” on a 2×4 or hubcap. Regardless, that token was like a get out of jail free card, letting you slip into the forbidden, delicious quiet of the empty hallways while everyone else was slouched at their desks.

A grown-up golden ticket

When inbound Metra trains are delayed during the morning rush hour, they print the grown-up equivalent of hall passes. These slips of paper, which always include the current date and one of several pat excuses (track construction, signal trouble, freight train interference, or, the most ominous, “pedestrian incident”) are available as you leave the platform.

I know some people need these hall passes to excuse their tardiness, especially when the delays are lengthy. The “pedestrian incident” delays can stretch an hour or longer, depending on circumstances. But some of the track construction or signal problems are relatively short – just 10 or 15 minutes. I haven’t figured out what the tipping point to generate an excuse note is. Must a delay be more than 10 minutes? 8? 12?

There’s a certain feeling of freedom that comes with arriving downtown at a different time. Metra so regiments suburban commuters’ lives – you live and die by the time tables, adjusting work schedules, meetings and social engagements to catch the most optimal train – that on the rare occasion when you arrive off schedule, it feels very odd.

When you arrive at exactly the same time as every other day, you’re walking among the same crowd, at the same pace, watching the same people duck into the same coffee shops. The crowd has a cadence, a rhythm that is familiar to the daily commuters. But arriving fifteen minutes later upsets that delicate routine.

Inevitably, it’s on these days – when my train was late and I’m scrambling to get to the office  – that I run into someone from a past life. A high school classmate I haven’t given a second thought to since graduation or a college confidante who has drifted away will suddenly cross my path. Of course I stop and say hello, exchanging hugs and email addresses, thrilled to run into a blast from the past.

And then I wonder – who else is roaming the streets of the Loop in the early mornings, just slightly earlier or later than my normal train?

Night Owls: Riding the Late Train

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.

Later Train

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?