By Roberto Moya

My earliest class starts at 9:35 A.M. It’s not an unreasonable time for those who live on campus but for train commuters like me, 9:35 A.M. spells out the exact reverse, 5:39 A.M. or more accurately, 5:30 A.M. – the time my alarm clock goes off. Three hours of what could have been precious sleep is lost to my dependence on the Long Island Rail Road.

A countless number of problems could be attributed to the LIRR’s haphazard way of running things. For starters, the Port Jefferson line runs on a widely-spaced schedule, which means that if I unfortunately happen to miss the 6:39 train, it’ll be another good two hours before the next one arrives. This is very inconvenient considering the fact that I cannot shape my schedule to my liking, but instead to the rather erratic schedule of the LIRR.

I catch the morning train in Hicksville, and another displeasure I can easily complain of is the hideous appearance of their train station. A decaying pair of broad platforms run parallel to each other, both highly elevated from ground level providing passengers the temporary entertainment of traffic and pedestrians below.

More sources of entertainment include the affable company of cooing pigeons and an inescapable display of annoying advertisements. Except when humorous mustaches, missing teeth and oversized penises are drawn on the faces of ad models, the Hicksville train station is nothing short of a depressing reminder that at a time not too long ago, I had the choice to live on campus.

I almost forgot to mention the various television sets scattered throughout both platforms. Before they played the news, but now all they’re good for is fixing your hair using the glass’ reflection. Great investment.

Transfers are inevitable. What’s worse than fighting the urge to sleep in the train is having to get up and stand in the freezing cold for what seems like forever. When the train eventually arrives, it’s a childish race to see who can gain first entry accompanied by pushing, shoving, groping and bad breath. The only perk is that we get to ride the double-decker. Joy.

One nice thing I can say about the LIRR is its paranoid attention to passenger safety. They make it almost impossible for anyone with common sense to fall into the “gap,” the LIRR’s favorite word. The gap that divides the train and the platform before entry is a less than foot-long space that most people seem automatically trained to step over – the result of the LIRR’s establishment of ubiquitous gap reminders. These reminders are almost too omnipresent to the point that they imply a mockery of our intelligence. Of course I would step into the gap.  Losing your foot nowadays is only the newest fad!

Instead, the LIRR should balance its efforts on safety to encompass both physical hazards and public safety. Most commuters are familiar with the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” If the LIRR assumes that we’re sensible enough to know that that “something” is a bomb, then why not apply that same assumption to the apparent presence of the gap. I don’t understand.

Now for the dreamy proposals. Instead of two-hour waits between train arrivals, why not resolve the problem with half hour waits using a fewer number of cars? That way, passengers can get more sleep. Well-rested passengers equal happier passengers which equal hefty profits. Think about it, LIRR.

As for the unattractive atmosphere of the Hicksville station, a simple renovation would do. A fresh paint job, rust removal, garbage cleanup and plenty of Febreze to rid the air of urine stink is not too much to ask for. But of course, the LIRR would rather use our hard-earned money to pay Alec Baldwin to utter a few words on “gap” safety.

Speaking of “gap” safety, if the gap is such a dangerous hazard, then why not create a train-door whose lower portion would lower like a drawbridge? Perhaps such a courageous leap in train-door design would prove to be a bit pricey, but wouldn’t Mayor Bloomberg’s expensive promenade project ruin the very essence of Time Square’s hectic appeal?

Are these proposals truly dreamy, or is pragmatic a more appropriate word? In contrast to the economic climate, these problems are but mere microscopic problems, which, if resolved, would at least make not just student commuters but all LIRR customers less pessimistic about their morning commute. But I hope you’ve noticed by now, these are only exterior complaints.

Recently, the LIRR sent a survey to their customers asking them to rate their service. To my surprise, one question implied the possibility of a quiet section. I would cry if the LIRR made a quiet section. When it’s 7 o’clock in the morning, the only sound present should be the whirring hum of train wheels. Morning chatter is just rude. I could understand if most passengers were in deep conversation with friends, cell phones, or themselves, but when it’s close to dead silence, train etiquette at that point is obvious.

I was pleased to see that the LIRR took heed to the issue of noise pollution, but what about the pollution responsible for disgusting those who wish to sit? Ancient apple cores and banana skins, flowing rivers of coffee, and mucus-infested tissues are a few examples. I couldn’t identify any of the others.

Trash receptacles are nonexistent on LIRR trains, which could explain why commuters often find themselves in sticky situations. It’s too inconvenient to get up and deposit trash in the restroom or outside at a stop, so the next best thing is the hidden crevice between window and seat. It’s obvious that these trains were designed by men who live on their couches.

Another reason why seats can’t be sat in is because passengers leave their baggage in the adjacent seat. The question is whether this seat-hogging is intentional or not. In the morning, you can’t really tell when everyone looks like the Republican Party during President Obama’s address to Congress. But who am I to complain?  I do it too. Fortunately, the conductors are aggressive in handling this problem. I have noticed, though, that the farther east the train route, the more blithe the conductors tend to be.

About an hour later and the train finally arrives at Stony Brook, the most popular stop on the Port Jefferson line. In fact, because it is so popular, the LIRR ought to implement an express run for just Stony Brook goers. I would cry if the LIRR did this too. Student commuters, after all, are the reason why Port Jefferson trains see the light of day.

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