I love the people themselves. I love the wide variety of people, from the very young to the very old, the mix of ethnicities and religions and colors. I love to analyze the various fashions they wear, from the pajama casual to the business casual. The men in bowties and fedoras, and the ones in Jordans and jeans. The women in dresses and heels, and the ones in high-waisted jeans and cropped tops.
I love to watch what people do on the train. Some read books, magazines, or newspapers. Others, headphones in place, listen to music. Some steal quick cat-naps. Others, like me, people watch.
I love to try to figure out which of my fellow train travelers are tourists and which are locals. Some are easy to assess. The girl carrying the large bag from which she produces a pair of flats, which she quietly places on her feet in place of the four-inch stilettos, which then fill the void in the bag, is quite obviously a local. The couple engrossed in the subway map, trying to decode its lines and colors in order to determine their next move, are clearly from out of town. Other passengers are more difficult to read.
I love the thrill of deciphering a new subway system. Every time we visit a new city and look over their subway maps, I am thankful anew for the months I lived in New York. As a 22-year-old, I learned a valuable skill that has aided me many times through the years - the skill of reading subway maps.
Some systems are easier to navigate than others. Toronto's subways are quite easy, partly because they have only four lines plus the train to the airport, and partly because everything is in English with names that are easy to pronounce. Dubai's was a bit trickier, simply because the names were more difficult to read, to pronounce, and to understand when spoken. Beijing was even more of a challenge. Not only is the language barrier present, with many stops that sound and look quite similar, but also because the system is vast, with many lines.
And, in both Beijing and in Washington, D. C., the price you pay is based on how far you travel, unlike New York and Toronto, who operate on one set price regardless of how far you go. D.C. makes it even more complicated with higher prices during heavier-traffic times.
Do you enjoy or loathe travel by subway? Does public transportation excite or annoy you?