How to Be Classy on the El (or any public transit)

Staying Classy on the El

Here in Chicago we don’t ride the Underground, the Metro or the Subway. We ride the El. And unlike it’s European counterparts, the El can be late, few and far between and somewhat illogical.

But the El has something that Europe and New York are sorely missing…

Common courtesy

In August when my boyfriend and I went to London to visit friends I was astonished at how rude and pushy everyone was. While I calmly waited for Londoners to depart the Underground train before trying to board, my across-the-pond counterparts pushed and shoved their way onto the Tube (as if there wasn’t another train coming in a minute and a half). While on the metro in Paris the phrase “sardines” came to mind one too many times. And even in New York people will shove you out of the way to get a seat on the subway.

What happened to common decency on public transit? Why is pushing and shoving your way through the only option? Over the past few weeks I’ve been observing my fellow El riders and have compiled a list of tips on how to be classy (like all us Chicagoans) for the rest of you who are probably nursing a bruise from an elbow to the ribs as someone ran past you on the Underground/Metro/Subway. With our world of constant commuting, this Lifevestment is a must!

How to Be Classy On Public Transit

1. ALWAYS give up your seat for the elderly or someone in need of it. I’m sure we’ve all seen this happen – some businessman on his iPhone pretends to ignore the elderly woman with a walker/bag of groceries while she, against all odds, struggles to stand as the train jars it’s way down the tracks. It is unacceptable to not forgo your seat for someone in need. Unacceptable.

2. Respect personal space. This isn’t always possible to do but try to follow this rule as best you can. Everyone riding public transit paid the same fare (or relatively close to it) which means everyone has a right to an appropriate amount of personal space on the train. If you find yourself accidently feeling up your neighbor when the train hairpin turns take a step back.

3. Cross Your Legs. Women always look more poised and beautiful with their legs crossed (not to mention that it’s polite not to flash people when wearing a skirt). Gentlemen this applies to you too – the ‘spread eagle’ is one pose best left in the bedroom.

4. Patience, Patience. I’m not sure why but people on public transit have a tendency to push towards the exit while the train is still pulling into the station… No one can move out of your way until the train has stopped so don’t crowd people unnecessarily. You will look very sophisticated staying seated until the train stops and then gracefully exiting the train in one fluid movement.

5. Pay attention to your surroundings. In today’s world it’s status quo to get on the El and see almost everyone around you staring at a screen of some sort. While there’s nothing wrong with texting on your iPhone or reading your Nook, it’s important to take a breather from the screen every once in-awhile. Notice the people around you and acknowledge them with a smile. Enjoy sipping your coffee while watching the scenery going by (if you’re above ground).

6. Pick up after yourself. Recycle your newspapers and toss your coffee cups. It’s not only polite, it’s sanitary.

7. Be prepared. If you’re sick, stay home. If you absolutely must go into work, bring plenty of Kleenex to keep your coughing to yourself.

Wishing you luck on your commute home,


3 thoughts on “How to Be Classy on the El (or any public transit)

  1. As a fellow Chicagoan who has recently traveled to the other cities you mention I can relate. We are pretty darn polite on the El, comparatively. I guess public transit across the globe has individual cultural differences, like anything else!

  2. When I moved to London last year I was pretty shocked at the rudeness of my fellow commuters. I was used to Midwest manners where men stand back to let women go first or hold doors open for you. My first week in London was such a struggle because I was being pushed and shoved and no one would even look at me, let alone apologize!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s