1. The Expert Commuter
With a lanyard around their neck safely carrying their monthly pass, this seasoned rider has mastered the uncomfortable sitting up nap. They almost preternaturally manage to wake up in time for their stop before the conductor even calls it. These are the regulars, the masters of the morning commute, and frankly, the most chilled out and least likely to huff & puff when an inch of snow falls and all the trains are delayed 7 minutes (which we all know really means 20 minutes). Two subgroups exist within this classification: the lone wolf, who is either using the hell out of their hotspots or taking advantage of the chance to catch up on sleep, and the pack, usually in groups of four who have been taking the same route to work for five years and use their commute as a chance to catch up and socialize before getting into the office.
2. The Prodigal Son/Daughter
College students are like salmon. They like to return to the streams… or islands they were born on. You’re most likely to see these folks on holidays or weekends during the fall and winter; during the summer, they’re probably visiting home from an internship or work study in the city. They’re likely curled up in a sweatshirt with their headphones on and their bags (full of dirty laundry) neatly shoved overhead or under their feet. They may not be on the same level as the Expert Commuter, but having grown up in the shadow of the city, they’re still polite old hats when it comes to riding the LIRR, with a tendency to huddle out of the way until they’re about one stop away from their destination. At this point, out will pop their phone and the “Hey mom? Yeah, I’m at Syosset. I’ll be there in five" will be heard.
3. The Familial Cluster
Meet the bravest parents in the world, as they lunge for the six-seater. These optimistic adults are about to escort their young brood to dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner before a viewing of The Lion King and somehow they’re not going to lose any of their children, kid cousins, nieces and/or nephews along the way. If you’ve managed to lay claim to the penthouse of LIRR seats, be a pal and offer it up to these courageous heads of the house.
4. The Number One Fan
In nature, one can look to the peacock for impressive displays of bright colors and plumage. On the train, one doesn’t have to look far to find the Number One Fan putting on the same visual fireworks. The gregarious fan is usually of the sports stripe, rocking jerseys, hats, drawstring backpacks, and for particularly important games, face paint. They’re usually traveling in groups of two or more, and if you want to join in the conversation about their team, they’ll probably happily welcome you into the fray. Word to the wise: tread lightly around these fans if you know their team has just lost.
5. America's Next Top Model
You have to admire this intrepid soul and makeup artist. They are going for it. They come into the city looking amazing every day but it's not because they sacrificed twenty very precious moments of sleep in the morning. Hell no. They took a 40 minute nap on the way in, and when the train pulled into Jamaica, they went to work, plugging in a hidden hair straightener after securing the coveted socket hiding behind the door near the end of the car, and working makeup magic worthy of a professional. A normal cosmetics acolyte might find the art of the perfect wingtip elusive – this artist can do it half-asleep on a moving train.
6. Inspector Gadget
This tech buff travels with the entire set up: noise-blocking headphones, tablet, the entire last season of Game of Thrones locked, loaded, and ready to go. You might consider this person a subset of the expert commuter but less content to read the paper or work on their hook rug. On a particularly long ride, this can be one of the best possible people to sit near on the train, although that does bring us to…
7. The Remora
This person depends on others to get through their commute – much like the actual remora fish that hitches a ride on sharks. Whether they forgot to bring a book, or their phone has died, this person is now dependent on people in front of them for their entertainment on the way home today. Even though they can't even hear the audio track to that unsubbed action movie it's... kind of engaging!
8. The Night Outters
Whether it’s a bachelor/ette party, or just a mom, three preteens, and probably at least one rendition of the hit song from the particular musical they're heading to, these Long Island-based fun seekers are shaking off the suburbs for a night on the town. The Night Outers and the Expert Commuter are like two ships passing in the night -- or at least, in Penn Station, the only place they're likely to cross paths as one is always leaving as the other is arriving. Sometimes rowdy, but generally just looking for a good time, you'll find the Night Outer everywhere except, theoretically, the quiet car.
9. The Danger Zone Sleeper
You can't take your eyes off of them. When will this human game of Jenga topple? Whether practically sliding off their seat or precariously about to pitch into the seat in front of them (or really, "sitting" in any inconceivable position the human body can contort into) you can’t help them, but you also can’t stop staring at them. This is not the same person as the expert commuter -- while the expert commuter has mastered the art of the LIRR nap, the Danger Zone Sleeper is just desperate for some shuteye. Try not to judge -- commuting is hard.
10. The Reverse Router
It's safe to say that a majority of folks who take the LIRR on the regular are those that live on Long Island who are headed into the city for work, pleasure, or to catch a questionable bus outside of Penn Station to say, Boston. There are, however, those intrepid city dwellers who, as noted, just can't resist the siren song of Long Island's beaches, restaurants, and wonderful towns, period. You can likely spot them by A) their formal wear as they head out to a wedding, christening, or bris, B) their informal wear as they head to the beach, or C) the way the conductor probably needs to tap them on the shoulder for their ticket. Of all the specimens you'll find on the LIRR, the Reverse Router stands out, for while people will always be drawn the city's splendor, it's nice to know that even in its glamorous shadow, the Island stands firmly on its own merits.