Train TroublesSantiago, Fall 2011

The metro is the bane of my existence. That seems like a harsh statement and, believe me, the intensity of my feelings surprises me too. In the past I’ve always liked metros; they’re efficient, I get to do a lot of people watching and hone my balancing skills. The one in Santiago is clean too; of the systems I’ve seen it’s second only to the Singaporean metro where no food, nor drink, nor chewing gum is allowed and intimidatingly dressed policemen wait on the platforms to punish litterers.

The first frustrating thing about this metro system is that I have to pay for every trip. In most places one can get a weekly or monthly pass and ride around on the metro unlimitedly. Here there is no reward for being a loyal user of the metro system, or having a bip! (a rechargeable public transport card) rather than buying a single-ride ticket every time. Even worse, despite the fact that I’m a student with a horribly unflattering photo ID to prove it, the significantly cheaper student rate is only available to those who are staying in Chile for the year. Also, the prices change so that at peak hours I have to pay even more money to be uncomfortably smashed up against random strangers than I pay when I have space to dance around or there is an empty seat available. The best way to endure a crowded car is to look anywhere but at your fellow passengers; my preference is a distant stare towards the ceiling. But rush hour can’t be so bad, you must think. WRONG. Coming home after my IES classes at around 5 or 5:30 I’ve had to wait for more than 4 trains to go by before I’ve been able to squeeze myself on. Granted, that was before I lost all sense of personal space and still believed that the crowds on the platform allowed those who had waited longest the first open space on a passing train, but still.

A while ago I was riding the metro home after having bought myself some almendras confitadas (roasted sugar-coated almonds) from Nuts4Nuts, a ubiquitous street vendor. Being a Nuts4Nuts regular, I’ve learned that the nuts are best eaten while still warm. As such, I proceeded to continue snacking while riding the metro. It was not until 4 or 5 stops later that I noticed the disgruntled expression of the man standing in front of me. Because I was employing my favorite ceiling stare, I hadn’t noticed how uncomfortably close to his face I was chewing. I stopped immediately, but was disappointed that I had unwittingly fallen victim to the propriety-free spell of the crowded train. I’m not as serious an offender as the pickpockets or the couples making out ferociously in the corners, but my crime is certainly on the list of offensive metro actions, detracting from the public transit environment. We’ll see if I can keep my nose clean from here on out.

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