A Beginner’s Guide to People Watching: Public Transportation Edition

| April 6, 2015 | 2 Comments

As every people-watching enthusiast knows, it’s hard to be bored when taking public transportation. Every day there are new and exciting individuals making their way to some unknown destination. Even still, I have found that there are certain species of public transportation users that are more prevalent than others. If you ever find yourself people-watching mid-transit, here are some guidelines for spotting these specific varieties.


photo credit: Smell via photopin (license)


The Talker 

Generally found with one or two, typically less vociferous individuals. The Talker is characterized by loud, animated vocalizations. Hand gestures are often prevalent and standing too close can prove problematic. The Talker also appears to be putting on a show. He or she seems to be speaking to the entire car, while implying with their body language that they are directing their attention to only one or two people. There are times that the Talker is using a cellular device, but the previously mentioned characteristics remain the same. This is becoming less prevalent with the use of texting.


The Teenager

A single teenager, while easy to spot through their awkward manner and style of dress, is less noticeable than a large, boisterous pack. When spotting, pay close attention not only to the noise level, but also to the emotions of the individuals around you. With the introduction of a large teenage pack, the annoyance rates of nearby individuals sky-rocket. This is typically due to the sound level produced by the pack, the topic of their conversation, and the tendency to find anything and everything hilarious.


The Caffeinated Businessperson

These individuals are also quite easy to find. While their dress is often impeccable, they are mainly identifiable by the caffeinated drink that is permanently placed in their hand. When spotted, the tired look on their face will evoke a strange desire for you to give them more caffeine, or maybe even a pillow.


The Sleeper 

A description of this character is not necessary; you will know when you see them. They are typically asleep when you board and asleep when you get off. You hope that they make it to where they are going, but they also seem so peaceful you don’t dare wake them. If you listen to your instinct, something tells you they’ll be just fine.


photo credit: To Sleep, Perchance to Read via photopin (license)


The Impressive Stroller Roller 

The stroller roller is one of the easiest to spot, mainly due to the amount of space that they occupy. However, pay close attention to their maneuvering skills. This individual, while they may cause your trip to be a little more cramped, deserves your appreciation for their ability to board, ride, and exit any form of public transportation with such luggage.


The Intoxicated 

Mainly active during the late evening, and especially on weekends, this individual tends to travel in gender specific groups. Women will typically be wearing impractical clothing for public transport (mainly 10-inch heels) and talking in very animated voices about their destination or the amount of time till their arrival. Men are less clothing-identifiable, but will also be speaking in animated tones. Be sure not to stand too close to these individuals at particularly late hours. Their balance will be especially impaired, and there is no guarantee that you will make it out without regrets.


The City-Born Senior Citizens 

This individual is quite impressive. While appearing by their age that they may need your help, this individual has been taking public transportation since before you were born. In fact, they are better at riding public transportation than you are. While you’re busy stumbling a bit with each stop, they are fast asleep but wake up in time for their destination.


The Loner 

This is you my friend. You are the one sitting alone, watching all these individuals, giving them labels. But funny enough, they are probably watching you, knowing exactly what you are doing.


featured photo credit: binoculars via photopin (license)

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Category: East by West by T, featured

Caitlin Donnelly

About the Author ()

Caitlin Donnelly is a senior in the School of Education majoring in Special Education for students with severe disabilities. She hails from the city of Baltimore, Maryland and recently lived her life among the Kiwis of the Southern Hemisphere. She enjoys the occasional Jane Austen novel, tea, swing dancing, and bungee jumping.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tino Bratbo says:

    I definitely AM the loner on public transport.

    One tragic part of being “adult,” or at least of living in a city where public transport is not prevalent, is that I tend to drive everywhere and don’t get to people watch as I once did.

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