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Things to Do While on Public Transportation

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I have enjoyed writing stories since I was 10 years old, and love getting lost in them

The T Station

The T Station

Inspiration on the Subway

I thought about this subject while on the subway train. I lived in Boston for a year, and my job was a bus and two trains away. It took one full hour in each direction, so I had to find ways to avoid boredom. Here are some of my ideas.

Things to Do

  • Read a newspaper or magazine. In Boston, many of the subway stations have both a free newspaper and a free local magazine. You can learn a lot from browsing the many publications out there.
  • Read a book, or else listen to an audiobook. Give your mind a vacation, and sink deep into another world, or a subject you're interested in.
  • Learn another language. There are many programs out there that are helpful in teaching you. If you don't care to learn a regular language, learn Klingon, or Pig Latin. You will be popular in some circles!
  • Memorize something useful.
  • Study. If you are a student, take the time to study for a class. Or if you are just someone who's interested in learning, study from a book on whatever subject interests you.
  • Bring a planner, and jot down goals and plans.
  • If you have things you want to do later on, take the time to write a to-do list. I find that doing so frees up my mind to think about other things. Once the time comes to get things done I can just start, without having to think about it too much.
  • If you have certain information with you, and perhaps a calculator, you could use the time to budget your money. I wouldn't physically take your cash or credit cards out, but crunching numbers isn't too obvious. If you are not quite into the idea it's a good time to jot down things you may need or want in the future, so that when you do work on your budget you have some notes to refer to.
  • Take the time to think. I personally enjoy writing down my thoughts, but many people would be fine with just thinking. There are many things to contemplate.
  • Meditate, and concentrate on your breathing. Think about a time in the past that was peaceful or fun, or daydream about something that would really make you feel happy and content.
  • A puzzle book is a wonderful way to pass the time and can be a great way to exercise your brain.
  • If you are interested in crafts, find one that doesn't take up much space, and can be done while on public transportation. You may not want to be waving around sharp scissors or other instruments that could be perceived as a weapon, so be careful.
  • Enjoy the scenery. Part of my trip to work was above ground, and I enjoyed looking out the window during that time.
  • Apply your makeup with caution. You may not want to apply eyeliner, because a wrong move could poke your eye. Be considerate of your fellow passengers as well. No one likes the stench of strong-smelling cosmetics.
  • File your nails.
  • Comb your hair, especially if the weather messed it up while you were waiting.
  • Talk to people if you dare. This can risky business, because they may not want to talk, they may talk to you for a little longer than you would like, or they may turn out to be very scary or intimidating. But in my opinion, the day we stop talking to people altogether for those reasons is the day that we really lose something great about humanity. That being said, I don't always talk to people. In Boston, even a large group of people are likely to be pretty quiet and keep to themselves. But every once in a while I would come across a friendly person who wanted to talk, and it was refreshing.
I enjoy writing in my journal while I'm on the train.

I enjoy writing in my journal while I'm on the train.

Write to Preoccupy Yourself

As a writer, this is my favorite suggestion. Writing covers most of what I do to keep myself busy during my commute.

  • Write in a journal. It's good to jot down notes, events, reflections, plans, and feelings.
  • Write letters. I know many people nowadays don't utilize "snail mail", but I think it is pretty cool to write a letter to a friend or loved one while you are riding. A couple of weeks ago I wrote to an Aunt, and I know she was delighted to get a letter from me. If you have a device to type up an e-mail to someone, that is certainly an option.
  • Are you working on writing a novel, or have you ever wanted to? If you have a long enough ride, this could be a great way to pass the time. You may even get inspired in that environment.
  • If you are a website or blog writer, this is a good time to prepare for an article or a post. I have a special notebook I carry with me everywhere, and I use it to brainstorm and jot down notes that will help me when I actually sit down to write. I wrote down many ideas for this article while on the train!
  • If you are a writer, being on a bus or train is also a great time to get inspiration for characters, scenery, and events. You're around people, and passing scenery, so ideas are pretty likely to flow freely.
  • Maybe write an essay, poem, or story based on a writing or photo prompt. It's a great way to get your creative juices flowing!
  • Bring a book on writing, and read it. If you're like me, it will not only be inspiring, but you will also get absorbed into it.
  • Other books that would be useful to read or study during the commute are ones that enrich your vocabulary, your knowledge of words, or your spelling or grammar skills.
Listening to music is a good way to enjoy yourself while waiting to get to your destination.

Listening to music is a good way to enjoy yourself while waiting to get to your destination.


Technology is great for engaging yourself during a trip.

  • Listen to music. I see many people with earbuds or headphones on, listening to music on their mp3 player or cellphone. Just be careful, and be aware of your surroundings. You don't want to be oblivious if something bad happens.
  • If you have the ability, watch a movie, TV show, or video of some kind on an electronic device. Nowadays many people have tablets, electronic book readers, and smartphones that have this ability.
  • Browse online, if you have the right gadget. Just don't be startled if your reception goes away when you go through a tunnel!
  • Find events and places that you are interested in, and maybe start adding things to your calendar that could increase your fun and entertainment in your life later on. I have discovered many places and occasions when I have free time to look for them.
  • Read an electronic book or publication of some kind, if you have an electronic book reader or tablet.
  • Maybe send text messages or instant messages to one of your pals. Just don't drive them crazy! You may be bored, but that doesn't mean they are free to chat for long.
  • Play games on your electronic gadget. Many of them are free!
  • Play around with various amusing apps for your E-gadget or smartphone.
  • Use a social or dating website or app to communicate with friends or potentials, or to find someone new to communicate with. You never know who you may find along life's journey.

Observation: I would have suggested to use your laptop computer, if you have one, but:

  • I have never seen anyone use one while on the bus or subway. In the movies, but not in real life.
  • It is probably not safe to show everyone you have such an expensive portable gadget.
  • Many times they take up more space than would be polite to take up, particularly if it is crowded.

Here is a list of several movies that involve planes, trains, automobiles, and even spacecraft.

Movies to Watch During Your Commute


"Apollo 13"


"Snakes on a Plane"




"Throw Mama From the Train"



"Con Air"

"The Aviator"

"Top Gun"

"Air Force One"

"The Flight of the Phoenix"

Unique and Silly Ideas

  • Practice maintaining your balance. If you are standing up during the commute, you are probably going to be forced into learning this great skill!
  • Become an expert at being packed like a sardine. No need to study up on this subject, just commute during the peak hours, and you will become a pro at it.
  • If you don't get self-conscious very easily, do stretches. You can do this while waiting for your bus or train to arrive, or else combine it with the skill of maintaining your balance if you are standing up during the commute.
  • Stare into space for a while, and then jerk your head suddenly to stare at somebody, or else right beside them. I guarantee you it will get some kind of a startled reaction. On second thought, please don't do it. I'm only joking here.

What Not to Do While on Train or Bus

  • Do not spray perfume.
  • Do not put on nail polish.
  • Do not put on eye makeup that could lead to a poked eye.
  • Do not leave your bag unattended for any length of time.
  • Don't put your bag in the seat beside you, spread your stuff out to take up too much space, or hog an empty seat by sitting on the aisle seat.
  • Please don't play your music so loud that everyone hears it, or play games with the volume up. No one wants to hear it.
  • NEVER touch the driver, or threaten an operator or transportation worker in any way.
  • You probably shouldn't eat while riding, especially if you're touching the poles. Germs thrive in that environment. I have eaten on a bus before, especially during a long trip, and I didn't get sick. Just be careful if you do.
  • Try not to touch your face after touching anything on the vehicle.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
  • You may not want to fall asleep if you are on a city bus or train. A lot of bad things could happen to someone who is oblivious to their surroundings.
  • If you brush your hair, be careful not to bump anyone, or get your loose hair on anyone. That would be inconsiderate and gross.
  • For everyone's sake, don't try to agitate anyone!

Don't Forget...