I commute every week day from the great state of New Jersey (I say that without irony) to the bustling hub that is New York City. I’ve learned a lot on NJ Transit and have definitely changed because of it. In many ways, it was like joining a new faction. No longer a car driver, I was a commuter and I had to fully accept the role. Slowly, I began realizing that my new faction bore striking similarities to Divergent’s Dauntless.
1) I run towards trains every day. The second that number pops up on the board at Penn Station, I’m racing—alongside about a million other commuters—towards the track doors.
2) While it’s not a rooftop, I don’t always “mind the gap” when jumping on and off of my train. I’ve yet to slip.
3) In a showdown for an empty seat, I’ve learned to read body language and use any moment of polite hesitation to my advantage.
4) I’m expected to accept the rules, and all changes to them, without question. Oh, this train was originally going to Penn? Now it’s Hoboken. Good luck getting to work on time.
5) I’m also afraid of the people in charge. Once someone pulled the emergency brake and the conductor came across the speaker to inform us that we were not moving until the culprit had been caught and put in jail. Do trains even have a jail? Who knows, but they meticulously combed through the passengers until they found the guilty one and took him away. I never saw him again.
6) I constantly face my fears: Suddenly all the lights went out, are we about to die? What if I don’t get a seat and have to stand for an hour? Will that girl cut me if I ask her to move her bag off that otherwise empty seat?
7) I’m pretty sure there’s a massive secret conspiracy going on behind the scenes. I don’t know exactly what “connectivity problems” are, but they cause one problem too many around here.
8) Everyone is equal in the commuter world. Man, woman, child—doesn’t matter, you will be pushed and knocked down by men in black suits wielding briefcases. You quickly learn to stand up for yourself and push back.
9) That train will leave you behind if you don’t run fast enough.
10) We think we have a choice. But at the end, we’re just at the mercy of wherever and whenever NJ Transit wants to run.
11) I do defy death by standing on the yellow line while the train is coming.
12) Come 6:00, those same ruthless men with briefcases are cracking beers open to celebrate Dauntless-style the end of a hard day in the office.
Now if only I could find an empty seat next to a guy who looks like Four…