A Field Guide To The Men Of Public Transit
By A.J. Velasquez
There comes a time in every metropolis-dwelling woman’s life when she must venture onto the city’s bus and rail systems like a modern-day explorer, prepared to encounter a variety of exotic creatures, ranging from the farcical to the downright dangerous.
The following is a field guide to the types of men present on the transit system I frequent — Atlanta’s MARTA. But make no mistake: These creatures can be found in habitats across the country.
SPECIES 1: OLDER MEN
The Cat Daddy
He’s old enough to be your grandfather, but that won’t stop him from trying to hit on you . . . and your mom . . . at the same time. A typical conversation with the Cat Daddy goes something like this:
- CD: “How you doin’ today, pretty thing?”
- You: “I’m fine.”
- CD: “I know you’re fine. I asked how you doin’?”
Identifying features: Gold chain and teeth
Identifying sounds: “You fine.”
He’s usually in the first seat behind the yellow line, but making sure the whole bus can hear him as he espouses his wisdom on any number of topics. Conversations almost always circle back to what Real Women do for Real Men.
Oddly enough, the Lecturer is not married and hasn’t been since at least the early years of the Clinton Administration. What are the odds of such a great catch remaining single for so long?!
Identifying features: A distinctive tone that manages to be at once pretentious and deeply sexist
Identifying sounds: “You know what’s wrong with women today?”
SPECIES 2: PEDDLERS
He and his friend, the Party Promoter, are unique in that they don’t catch you on the bus, because it’s too easy to get in trouble for solicitation. Instead, he usually catches you on the train right as you’re slipping in your earbuds. It’s in your best interest to ignore him, because if you point out that relying on CD sales in the year 2015 is a terrible business proposition, he’ll get really pissed off.
Identifying features: A totally dope CD (and it will ALWAYS be a CD, no matter how far current technology has moved beyond it)
Identifying sounds: “Hey uh, can you buy my mixtape?”
The Party Promoter
He hangs out in the stairwells of train stations during rush hour to assault unsuspecting commuters with postcard-sized flyers usually covered in glitter, clip art spotlights/lasers, graffiti font, and bare-ass cheeks.
Identifying features: Frat-house attire; faux-exuberant demeanor
Identifying sounds: “Ladies in free before midnight!”
The Street Preacher
He’s only selling Jesus, and if you don’t accept Him, you’re going straight to hell. He even has a book about it, which you can buy for the low, low price of $5.99! Amen.
Identifying features: Dog-eared Bible; sympathetic tone that conveys how very sorry he is that you’re going to hell
Identifying sounds: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
SPECIES 3: SUBURBANITES
The Sports Fan
He never rides alone, and can usually be found in loud conversation with a group of three to five people. His preferred conversational topics include buffalo wings, the cost of parking at the stadium, “strategy” meetings, and the most comfortable brand of khaki pants. It’s hard to know if the sports fan is more obnoxious when his team wins or loses.
ADDENDUM: In Atlanta, the Sports Fan is either the Falcons Fan or the Braves Fan, the latter of which is a more racist and sunburned version of the former. The Braves Fan makes a show of holding their equally sunburned wives and children a little closer when anyone darker than a paper bag boards the train.
Identifying features: Obnoxiously prolific sports gear; the smell of cheap beer
Identifying sounds: “We’re going to the Super Bowl this year for sure!”; “Honey, we’re just gonna have to pay to park in one of the lots next time.”
The Reminder Guy
He needs you all to know that he never rides public transit. Like, never. He’s only doing so now because he needs to get to the airport and parking down there is so expensive. But don’t worry: he’ll have his wife pick him up when he gets back. This sure was an adventure, though!
Identifying features: Faint look of fear in eyes
Identifying sounds: “Really, I never do this!”
SPECIES 4: YOUNG GUYS
At 5’8” and 130 lbs. soaking wet with rocks in his pockets, there shouldn’t be a way for this epic manspreader to take up three seats at once, but somehow he does. You’d be impressed by how much space he takes up if A) those weren’t the designated seats for disabled/elderly passengers, and B) it weren’t the middle of rush hour on a bus full of people who would love to sit down. The only thing more fascinating than his ability to take up so much space is how slow he is to move over when the bus driver orders him to for the sake of an old lady with a cane.
Identifying features: A stunning lack of self-awareness
Identifying sounds: The sucking and gnashing of teeth that comes with being asked to consider anyone but himself
The Really Progressive Guy
He works in the Capitol building or some other public sector job and he takes MARTA because he “like, totally believe[s] in the power of urban planning.” Plus, he has to show his friends who live in the suburbs that “it’s really not that bad.” He still won’t sit next to you, though.
Identifying features: “The type of cheap suit that tells passersby “I work in politics, but I don’t make enough money to afford Brooks Brothers, because I’m not one of those political staffers. I’m a man of the people. Accountable to the taxpayers.”
Identifying sounds: “I think we could definitely get a Brain Train running from Atlanta-area universities out to UGA.” (This idea has literally been floated around in some form or another since my parents moved to Georgia in 1993 and Atlanta was planning for the Olympics.)
He’s having an argument with his girlfriend at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon and he needs every single one of you to know that “bitches be crazy.” So he puts his screaming girlfriend on speakerphone and turns the volume all the way up. Because if there’s one way to solve your relationship problems, it’s through the feedback of random strangers.
Identifying features: A feigned look of resignation as if to say “Can you believe this girl?”
Identifying sounds: ”Baby I told you I don’t know who that girl sending me nudes is! She has the wrong number!”
The Hand-Crafted Facial Hair Guy
This specimen needs you to know that he’s proud of his beard, but his need to be ironic and detached outweighs his desire for everyone’s attention. He knows he can’t say anything to a stranger about his facial hair. So he stands in the middle of the train aisle trying to find the balance between absentminded stroking and “Look at me! It’s so thick because of my Scotch-Irish ancestry. Wanna know what products I use?”
If you don’t notice his beard, it’s because you’ve been distracted by his stupid bike. Under no circumstances should you be caught staring at the bike unless you want Hand-Crafted Facial Hair Guy to regale you with stories of how he rescued said bike from a dump and how much it cost to restore it. He’s too oblivious to know that the only reason you were staring at his bike is because he’s been blocking the aisle with it instead of standing at either end of the train car and staying the hell out of everyone’s way.
Identifying features: Shirt adorned with a bird and/or band you’ve never heard of
Identifying sounds: “It’s a fixie.”
Lead image: flickr/Chase Elliott Clark
Illustrations by Katie Tandy