The dance of the metro commute

Every day I dance the same dance, along with thousands of fresh partners. It’s a beautiful routine that’s practiced several times a day in several different settings. Cool dark tunnels cut off the sunlight from the street and long escalator rides prepare you for the difficult dance of the metro commute.

Effectively navigating the metro commute is a carefully timed thing of beauty. The precision that is required to successfully minimize your movements and maintain a flawless flow is akin to doing ballet while blindfolded. You cannot simply walk where you please during the metro commute. No – you have to be fully aware of your surroundings; the men and women to your left, right, front and back. You must pay attention to how fast they are moving, what their trajectories appear to be, where you’re headed, and then instantly calculate how to bob and weave through the madness without breaking stride.

This is what makes the dance so difficult. There are so many variables involved, so many new and distinct dispositions. Diverse people moving at different speeds, unique timing and rhythms, and all with separate agendas. Some understand very clearly the nature of the dance, while others remain ignorant and unacquainted.

This is the problem – there are far too many that are unaware of the rules of the game. Tourists are exempt from this statement, as they are painfully easy to spot from across the room and even easier to avoid. One can infer that they wont move very quickly, if at all, so the tourist can be treated the same as any immobile obstacle would. Simply steer clear well in advance – as you would a pylon, pillar, or trash bin.

However, the others – those who are there every day and simply choose to ignore the unwritten rules of the tunnels – undoubtedly ruin it for the rest of us. These are the commuters who don’t understand that it is nearly impossible to stop dead in your tracks and make a 180º turn without causing a domino-like collision to those following in your slipstream. These turns need to be made gradually and without hesitation or odd changeups. There’s simply too much momentum in your wake to do otherwise. Making such a turn in the metro tunnels is the easiest way to hear: Děláš si prdel?! from at least five different dance partners.

These are the same commuters who also insist on standing directly in front of train doors when they open, almost as if to say, “Hey, we like you and think you should stay on this train a few more stops, so not only are we going to stand in front of your exit route, but we’re also going to start boarding as you’re trying to leave. Good luck!”

It’s a painful experience to be caught in the crossfire of an unseasoned commuter. On the other hand, watching someone else have to endure it elicits great Schadenfreude. Without a doubt, seeing and scoffing at the inexperienced in these situations is much more entertaining than whatever crap is on your iPod.

Painstaking awareness of one’s surroundings is essential for success at the dance. But so too is the training of what I call your metro feet.

It’s a long and arduous process to develop your metro feet. It takes months of daily experience, keen observation, and impeccable balance. Though the benefits are more than worth it. One does not need a seat, nor a rail to hold onto when in possession of expert metro feet. They allow you to shift your weight back and forth on the balls of your feet, and alter your equilibrium in order to remain upright, regardless of the trains momentum forward, sudden swings of the cars, or impulsive breaking. I’ve seen 80 year old babičkas put high school athletes to shame with how balanced and in tune they are with the rhythm of the rails. And all thanks to a finely tuned pair of metro feet.  

The dance of the metro commute is no easy feat,
Requiring unbroken alertness and timely metro feet.

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