The LIRR: Why we hate it, why we love it and why we can't live without it
The LIRR strike has been averted. But now that the chaos has died down, we LIRR-dependents can't help but realize just how much our lives are affected by these trains and the people who run them.
An LIRR strike would have affected people from all walks of life, from business owners around Penn Station to city-dwellers with weekend plans in the Hamptons. But for us, the LIRR is not something you take out to the East End twice a summer for a beach retreat. It's our lifeline, and some weeks we spend more time inside of it than we do in our own houses.
Flaws, it has many, but only we can insult it, because only we have endured its daily tortures and reaped its necessary benefits. And as much as we'd sometimes love to picture our lives without it, the truth is, we can't. So, here's to the real LIRR: The one we love to hate.
WHY WE HATE IT
Our bosses run on EST, not LIRR time
The LIRR isn't always late, but it's almost always late. And when it is, you're trying to get into the city for the most important meeting of your life, slowly losing your mind while staring helplessly at a screen taunting you with empty promises of being "on time," even though you're all too aware that the scheduled departure time has already come and gone.
Seat hogs have no souls
We've all met that person-- maybe even been that person-- who decides their shopping bag is more deserving of a seat than the 25 peasants standing right behind them. Yes, you can (and should) ask them to move it. But sometimes, you just wish they would have an ounce of common courtesy and do it on their own.
We didn't sign up for a 5K
Why is everyone always running? Seriously, the train isn't leaving Penn Station for another eight minutes and the track is RIGHT THERE. If it's rush hour, you're not getting a seat anyway. If it's not, just walk like a civilized human all the way to the back and you'll get one. So please, calm down because your tailwind almost just blew a small child onto the tracks.
We enter a time vortex every day, yet we're not getting any younger
"This is the slowest train I've ever been on." If you don't mutter this under your breath, shout it into a cell phone or at least think it three to five times a week, you're not a real Long Islander. Time has truly found a way to stand still on the LIRR, and not in that romantic, eyes meet, movie scene pauses sort of way. It's late, you're tired, something smells really bad, and while you don't actually know what speed the train is traveling, you're convinced you could walk faster, even with your aching feet.
"Change at Jamaica" is the most-feared phrase in the English language
Transferring at Jamaica is sometimes necessary, we get it, but that doesn't mean we can't hate every second of it. There's nothing worse than giving up your seat to step out into the freezing cold or blazing heat and wait for another train that you'll probably end up standing on. And don't even get us started on track changes. You have no idea how many Olympic-qualifying runners live on Long Island until they have to get from track 1 to 8 before the last express train's doors close.
The drunk train will makes us question what we did to deserve this life
From the disgruntled businessman who hit the beer cart a little too hard before boarding to the college kid fresh off her first big night in the city, your chances of sharing the train with an annoying drunk person are high. Your chances of said annoying drunk person sitting next to you and wanting to strike up a deep and meaningful conversation about life are even higher. You quickly realize you're not going to get them to stop talking-- even putting your earphones in doesn't phase them. All you can do is sit back, count the minutes until your stop and avoid the drip from their Penn Station McDonald's Big Mac.
WHY WE LOVE IT
It's better than the subway
It's cleaner, the seats are more comfortable, and you have cell service. Is anything really THAT bad when you have Spotify and Instagram? Send a snarky Snapchat and get over it.
The announcements amuse us, at least a little
The name of your town has never sounded more whimsical and exotic than it does when it's announced over the LIRR sound system, and you secretly pride yourself on knowing every town on your line, in order, by heart. Added bonus: Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get the conductor who likes to make jokes along the way. Whatever mood you're in, ya gotta love that guy.
Double-deckers are kind of cool
Double-decker trains are a double-edged sword, it's true: They mean you're going to have to switch at Jamaica (and you already know how we feel about that), but they also mean more chances to find a seat, and whether you admit it to yourself or not, sitting up top makes you feel like a total boss.
There's a certain camaraderie
We all complain about the LIRR, and even the people on it, but there is a common understanding between the regulars: We're all in this together. We may spend a few hours every day face to face and hardly ever speak to one another, but when we get stalled at Jamaica and your phone is dead, we're going to lend you ours. When it's cancelled all together, we'll split a cab ride home. When the crazy person next to you decides now is a prime time to take his rancid shoes off, we'll exchange a quick glance to let you know we feel your pain. And when you're running down the platform, we'll even risk a bruise to hold the doors open. We've been there.
We need it
Yes, the LIRR is expensive and it's no fun. But it gets us to and from work, connects us with our family and friends and provides us with access to one of the greatest cities in the world. And as much as we criticize it every day, the thought of it going on strike terrified us. In the words of a band from another set of suburbs: "You don't know what you got 'til it's gone."
The author's identity has been concealed to avoid ridicule on this weekend's drunk train.